Sunday, August 30, 2009


--Do What You Have to Do,
David Thorpe (1998)

For of all sad words of tongue or pen,
the saddest are these: "It might have been!'"

--John Greenleaf Whittier

Dum vivimus, vivamus!

[While we live, let us live!]

Neither do men light a candle,

and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick;

and it giveth light unto all that are in the house

--Matthew 5:15

Tis the infirmity of his age: yet he hath ever
but slenderly known himself

--King Lear, Shakespeare [I, i]


Sunday homily
: Today.

I recently went to the Mayo Clinic with a friend, who remarked what a dismal experience the clinic was. I did not see it that way.

Sobering, perhaps. Realizing that most people are there because they are unwell but trying to get better, and recognizing that we are all hurtling toward the same end, I was actually uplifted.
Of the elderly he said, "But, they're all dying!" "We're all dying," said I.

Tender mercies abound. Frail, frail, the elderly couple at the check in station, he much taller than she, his hand on her neck and shoulder. Well-attired, they are still a handsome couple, but one can imagine him when he was not so tentative. So gently they walk away, he holding under her elbow for her support.

Almost everyone at Mayo except the most blighted manages a smile or a kind word. At the outdoor cafe was overheard numerous phone conversations, all ending with a sincere -- an almost desperate -- "I love you."

Words of encouragement were plentiful.
"You're walking better today," even when one could not imagine the walk to be much worse. A towel wrapped around a waist falls, and a worker picks it up and wraps it back around the woman's waist, saying, "We women understand what it is to take care of each other." Such simple grace.

A Mayo visit is sobering in the way that reading the obituaries is. One realizes that a life -- every life -- can be squeezed into two paragraphs: He was a loving (blank), a member of (blank) church or organization; worked (blank); left behind (blank). That's all. There are few grandiose moments, though each one has the potential for small exultations and gratitude.

In college, I declined a job request to be a companion to a resident at the local senior center, but the job fascinated me, nonetheless. The man sought a companion to walk and talk with him for one hour, three days a week. That man may be dead now, and I missed an opportunity to learn another life, and see things through eyes wiser than my own.

What amends have you made today? What pettishness have you avoided? Did you really listen to someone with an open heart? Are you making something beautiful -- discovering your light?

tomorrow, and tomorrow and tomorrow are among the saddest words in English literature. What would happen if, just for today, you lay your burden down?

[Cross-posted at
Big Brass Blog]

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Anonymous Labrys said...

Not me, not today. Today, my "Why should the military get paid college/housing/medical/pay raises" button was pushed. Hot, even as the summer ends, you might say.

Sunday, August 30, 2009 at 9:13:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...

Understood, labrys. You get a special dispensation :)

Sunday, August 30, 2009 at 11:36:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Labrys said...

Good thing, I could need dispensation---I've felt particularly smitish of late.

Monday, August 31, 2009 at 11:42:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger FDChief said...

"We're ALL dying".

I wish you could have this reprinted in every newspaper op-ed page - first, just because it's a great piece, second, because we need to remember that we're all going here, no matter how we try and pretend we're not.

Lovely; just lovely. Your humanity and tenderness - for those you have never met and have no "reason" to be compassionate towards - overwhelms me.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009 at 8:25:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger FDChief said...

Lisa: I'm sure you're aware - and it wasn't really germane to the purpose of this post - that the Mayo Clinic system is unique in American health care for placing its physicians on salary, instead of fee-for-service?

Perhaps when your patients are your charges, instead of your "profit centers" it's easier to see them as people, instead of walking wallets...

Tuesday, September 1, 2009 at 8:28:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...


Thank you for the kind words.

Yes, I think the Mayo's salary system makes a great difference. Most of the doctors are personable and direct, thorough with their testing, but not frivolously so. They have a job to do, and frankly, most go about it with alacrity.

It is a very interesting vibe at the Mayo. Unlike so many MD's who look at us as a way to put their kids through college, Mayo MD's tend to people coming to them from across the country for the relatively short term. They are solution-based, vs. preening us for long-term patronage.

I think it is a very good system, and seems to free them up from having to put everyone in the same surgical box.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009 at 12:08:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...

p.s. to Chief:

"humanity and tenderness - for those you have never met and have no 'reason' to be compassionate towards"

Ah, but if not then, it hardly deserves the name :)

Tuesday, September 1, 2009 at 12:58:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous basilbeast said...

This is so very strange. I'm not writing this to toot my own horn, although I'm sure it may sound that way, but Ranger's bit about the VFW and wearing their stuff, and your very excellent piece, Lisa, which could cover a host of hot topics in our political life today, all this is written after that picture I posted of the mother holding the broken body of her son.

My explanation for doing that got eaten by blogger; Lisa, your and Ranger's pieces could've filled that void.

For that, great thanks.


Tuesday, September 1, 2009 at 3:30:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...


Forgive me -- where is this photo posted?

Wednesday, September 2, 2009 at 7:17:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

I believe the pic mentioned by Basil Beast is posted on milpub.
It's a grown up version of Noora since half the mans head is missing.

Thursday, September 3, 2009 at 9:22:00 AM GMT-5  

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