Tuesday, April 3, 2012

"And we all shine on . . ."

A lot has happened since I last wrote, and I have a list of posts (on dissertating, on NEMLA) that I plan on submitting to the blog very soon.

For now, however, I want to talk about something else. Two years ago today, my beloved father-in-law passed away. This anniversary is hitting me particularly hard, so I don't honestly have all that much that I can say right now -- words aren't coming that easily, and there are so many stories that I could tell.  Too many for a single post though, and they deserve more justice than I can give to them right now.

What I do want to announce, however, is that my incredible mother-in-law has written a beautiful book about Mark, and it's going to be released tomorrow. It's called The Humanity of Medicine: A Journey from Boyhood to Manhood, and you can find it here

 For those of you who don't know, Mark survived what should have been terminal cancer as teenager, and went on to have a miraculously long and rich life. He was diagnosed again with malignant melanoma in October 2009, and while the months (and especially the weeks leading up to his passing) were among the most brutal our family has ever experienced, I will never forget what he told us when we saw him shortly after the diagnosis.  He reminded us, in his gentle way, of all the cards stacked against him throughout his life. He was told he wouldn't survive cancer as an eighteen-year-old, and yet he did. He was then told that he wouldn't have children because of the chemo, but he went on to marry the love of his life and they have not one, but three amazing kids. He was told he wouldn't live long, but he lived cancer-free for about thirty years. He reminded us of all of these things, and he told us that he was going to fight hard to beat the cancer again, just as he did before; but if it turned out that this was his time, he told us that in his mind he felt he'd already lived a truly blessed and rich life.  Here he was, facing down his own fears and confronting them with grace, but also finding a way to lead his family through the storm; truth be told, he never stopped being a healer, not even on his death bed . . . one of his last lucid conversations involved him asking his doctor (who had known him a long time) how she was holding up.  He somehow found it within himself to be strong in the face of immeasurable sorrow and fear -- and not even just then, in 2009, but throughout his entire life. He chose to live his life by looking forward rather than over his shoulder, and that was, in no small part, what he sought to give and instill in all of us in the last months that we were able to spend with him.  

I can't express how glad I am that this book is going being released tomorrow. I just made the discovery a few moments ago, and it struck an immediate chord.  Loudly and clearly, it reminded me to spend tomorrow/today trying not just to remember and grieve for the amazing person I was so blessed to know, but to live by his example, to try -- as best I can -- to "take a sad song and make it better" (Mark's motto). Because truthfully, we control precious little in this life. The only thing we seem to have any control over is the way in which we digest and respond to our circumstances.  True joy lies within those choices -- even in the face of sorrow and loss. This was a truth that Mark knew deeply and well, and I hope that I can do him proud by striving to live in that awareness. 

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