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A Piece of My Mind
November 25, 2009

A Journey Beyond Imagining

JAMA. 2009;302(20):2188-2189. doi:10.1001/jama.2009.1586

Let us be merry while we may, and have joy in our minds,
For sorrow can catch us whenever it pleases .—Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

“I'm surprised to see you here,” one of our cardiology fellows said as he took the seat next to mine in the echocardiography reading room. His comment emanated from my return to work less than two weeks following the death of my son, Zachary, in a plane crash last January. After a moment's reflection I responded, “I don't know where I’m supposed to be. I don't know what I’m supposed to do. I don't know what I’m supposed to say.” I did know how I felt. I felt I had been thrust into a world of familiar surroundings but with an operating principle incomprehensively different from the one I thought was real days before; a world at times I considered might be a dream but knew immediately it was not, and that there would be no startled awakening to thankful relief from its horror. I felt that a new life-clock had started ticking the moment I took the call on a hallway phone in my clinic informing me of the crash, and that everything that occurred after would be tied to that moment. I felt totally flattened—physically, psychologically, spiritually. I felt that a consuming sorrow had taken control of me, a sorrow I couldn't and surprisingly didn't want to suppress—understanding utterly why it had come. I felt out of place any time I was away from home and family and wanted to be only there and only with them. Beneath the veneer of seeming to go through my day relatively unencumbered I felt like crying, almost all the time.