Just like everything else, growing up has its advantages - and also its disadvantages.
A significant - though desperately unwanted - milestone for any adult would be attending a funeral of someone he knows, whether a friend, a relative or someone close to them. In the past few years, I've had several of those dark moments under my belt as I've had two of my uncles pass away suddenly; even been there for some of my closest friends who have lost their parents.
In my line of work, we deal with death almost on a daily basis - part and parcel of the intensive care life - and we know exactly the right dose of compassion and sympathy to dole out to the grieving relatives at their time of bereavement. Though it has become almost painfully mechanical the way we pat them consolingly three times on the shoulders while muttering our sorely inadequate condolences, there's always throbbing ache in our heart no matter how clinically detached we try to be.
Could we have done more? Could we have done things differently? Could we have saved the patient? Chances are there's usually not much we could have done. That acute feeling of painful inadequacy providentially fades away just in time for the next incoming patient.
And the next. And the next. Till we learn quickly how to tamp down that niggling emotion the moment it tries to surface - giving rise to the callously brusque doctor stereotype.
Though sometimes there are times when we just can't.
When a distressed Charming Calvin called to tell me that his brother had suddenly passed away, I was quite appalled. The horrible spectre of cancer had struck tragically fast - and this time it had delivered a final killing blow. Since his brother hadn't been stationed close by, I didn't really know him well enough to summon up any available feelings of remorse. However just giving Calvin the usual prescribed treatment for grief didn't seem entirely sufficient.
|The funeral |
And when I heard the unshed tears in his voice, I knew it would never be. Though he claimed that he was doing alright, all I knew was that I wanted to be with him through this dark period in his life. Never have I packed that quickly for a flight that fast. Half the time I imagined that I might have purchased the wrong return ticket since I barely skimmed through the details.
The unforeseen death in his family had left its mark with Calvin looking almost shellshocked at the funeral. Faced with his seemingly inconsolable anguish, I couldn't seem to find the words to soothe and comfort him. All I could do was hold him as he wept.
Death is a terrible event but it reminds us to always hold those we love close and dearly as long we possibly can.