Saturday, December 15, 2012

Life and Death

My personal lab results can wait. The science can wait.

What can't wait is the rendering of my, our collective pain on this page.

Three crushing notices of death in the last week. 

We all lost Ravi Shankar who was still teaching and making music days before he passed at 92. We celebrate his life and remember his music and at least for me, those heady days in the late 60s and early 70s when he first touched my life. The scene was a concert at the faded regality of the Outremont Theater, in Outremont of course, an ethnically diverse neighborhood of Montreal, where I lived when in medical school. The very high audience applauded loudly for the tuning up. Mr Shankar commented that he hoped they would enjoy the music as much. And then we were transported by the foreign tonality and rhythms of his raga to new places, places of peace and beauty. And the applause was stronger. We had been taught to listen with new ears.

I am sure his friends and family wanted more time with the master, but he had traveled further than most and 92 years is not a life cut short.

Not so with Randy Shirley, a CLL warrior, cut down in his prime, killed in his battle to lead himself and others to a place of disease control. A husband, father, friend, and confidant to many others with CLL, Randy's fight ended suddenly after only three short years from time of diagnosis. It wasn't supposed to happen like this. The trial of biological therapy was supposed to be kinder and gentler. Doesn't that mean that you aren't supposed to die?  While we have no information, no connections, no data, no causes or effects, but the one thing I know for certain is that life offers no such guarantees. No Kaplan -Meir Curve is 100%. You pay your money and take your chances. And don't expect the rules to be fair. What's fair about a brave and generous soul being so alive one day and gone the next?

But the absences of guarantees and fairness doesn't begin to touch the abyss of meaningless terror for the 20 children and the 7 adults of Newtown, Connecticut. 20 children, 20 little children, gone for no reason. The horror is unimaginable for their families. There are no answers, nothing that will ever calm my soul or ease the burden of living in such a tortured world or explain away the craziness. Others may fine solace in their faith and I bless them for that, and join in their prayers, but for me personally, that never has unlocked any doors of salvation. I wish it did.

My answers, such as they are, have to do with living.

For me, one of the living, one touched from a distant by these deaths, I will push forward with greater urgency, using my sometimes empty words and my too often tentative grasps of the science and my too occasional prescient maneuvers to try to heal myself and the world.

I will not surrender to the sorrow or be bullied by the terror. I will not say no to the risks. Instead, I will continue to take the necessary chances. I will not stop pushing the limits. Instead I will demand better answers.

I will remember to savor every moment as if it might be my last. 

Some old Hassidic wisdom will help: "Life is a very narrow bridge. The important thing is not to be afraid." Rebbe Nachman of Bratslav.

Let me finish with some east/west music, a raga, to soothe my (our?) ragged souls.

We are all in this together. Especially when it hurts.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I share your grief , Brian , for your friend Randy for all those children in Connecticut, babies - just babies . Like Dunblane .
Through an ocean of tears from Scotland I thank you for all your courageous posts , this one in particular as you articulate what I feel , but have no words to describe .
In this together .

December 16, 2012 at 6:03 AM  

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