Monday, March 5, 2012

What Might Have Been

I never questioned why Julie was childless. After watching her mother and sister die suddenly, I figured she was reticent to pass on such flawed genes. She walked the earth with the lightness of fatalism. When premature death is a given, one loses the fear of the inevitable.

To say Julie had no children was not to say that she wasn't a parent. She guided each student who passed through her classroom as if they were her own. Unencumbered by the filial noose, she taught life's lessons without the subjective fear of tainted blood.

Julie was a counselor. She was a teacher. She was a beacon of light and hope to the unmolded clay of childhood.


I admired her immensely. I longed for the moral certitude woven into the fabric of Julie's life as I struggled with my own professional fall from grace. There was no gray zone. There was only black and white.

When we talked of her family history, Julie listened politely. I explained the implications of disease mapping as well as cardiac testing. Arrhythmia was high on my list. I lined up a genetic counselor and a first rate electrophysiologist.

Days progressed into months, and it became clear that Julie had no interest in obtaining any further consultations. I eventually caught up with her on her mobile, she told me she wasn't interested in living life that way.

Like so many patients, I said goodbye to Julie when I moved my practice. My fears assuaged by the siren song of the ages: time.


Years later, I would unexpectedly come across Julie's obituary when thumbing through the local newspaper. Her husband found her lying quietly on the couch with a handful of student essays splayed across her chest. Her last moments were spent alone with a fire roaring in the fireplace and a glass of wine untouched on the side table.

When I'm asked what it's like to be a physician, Julie's face often comes to mind.

It's a profession filled with hope and fear, triumph and devastation. We live for the great save.

And we are tormented by what might have been.

1 comment:

Jordan Grumet said...

Accidently deleted this comment (sorry):

"And we are tormented by what might have been."

Ah, the joys and frustrations of being a medical practitioner. May Julie rest in peace, eh.

Take care,
Peny@medical scrubs