Hey everyone, it’s Medicine Mondays again. Today we’re going to talk about somewhat of a somber topic — coming to terms with “Mortality”.
Quite simply, as humans we are not immortal, meaning we don’t live forever. As a child this is not something you think about, at all. This is evidenced by some of the crazy decisions kids make (mine included) in which they put themselves in harm’s way.
However, as we get older, those older than us also get older and tend to pass away. It’s almost as if there is certain threshold you reach where you’re old enough that people in the generation above you begin to pass away. I think that for many this might be our first brush with the reality that we are all mortal.
However, this particular blog post isn’t about that. This particular post is about me becoming aware of my own mortality and how doctors deal with mortality.
I’ve mentioned it before but I’ve had some friends and some friends of friends who I’ve lost too soon. These stories seem to keep happening. A friend of a friend from medical school passed away. Or a roommate from college passed away. I guess I’ve kind of reached the threshold of the late 30s and early 40s stage in life where we begin to see people who die young.
In recent memory these unexpected deaths have been from cancer. Off the top of my head I can think of people who were lost too soon either from lymphoma/leukemia or colon cancer. When an event like that happens, to a person who is so close to your age, it kind of hits you:
That could be me.
These other people didn’t live their lives any differently from me. In all likelihood they were probably more healthy than me, since I tend to eat out too much and not exercise enough.
However, things like this happen. When it’s your time to go, then it’s just your time to go. So then, when you hear stories like this, it makes you hug your spouse and kids a little tighter that night.
That said, at least for me for me, I don’t think that worrying about the possibility changes the probability. What I mean by that, is there are things I can control and things I can’t.
For example, I’m a pretty safe driver — my wife thinks maybe I’m a little too safe at times. However, when I’m in the car with my wife and kids and I’m driving, it’s my responsibility to keep them as safe as possible. I don’t give other drivers the benefit of the doubt. I don’t assume that cars will stop at red lights or will give me the correct right of way.
To me, I can’t afford that kind of error. I’ve already seen too many cars fly through red lights around here. A friend of mine even saw a car T-bone another car in an intersection because of driving through a red light. This was even at around midnight when the streets were basically empty. Yet somehow these two cars managed to hit each other. If one had just slowed down a little, or if one had just waited another split second, an accident could have been avoided.
Driving safe is something I can control.
However, the likelihood is that getting cancer or some kind of chronic disease is out of my control, so I try not to worry about it. That said, eating healthy and exercising more is something I can control… so I’m going to try to be better about that. The kids are both starting baseball at the end of July, so that should make do a little more exercise. (I hope)
Now then, one thing that really does worry me is making sure that if I die or become disabled that my family will still be ok.
I harp on this a lot, but I think that having good Life Insurance and Disability Insurance is really just that important. It’s one of the reasons I sleep a little better at night. That said, I think until you come to terms with your own mortality, it may be hard to see the benefits of Life Insurance and Disability Insurance — especially if you’re younger and don’t have a spouse or kids yet. However, I still believe having these things in place during residency is a good idea — despite the cost.
Wait a second, isn’t this a Medicine Mondays post?
You’re right. Let’s get back on topic.
As doctors we deal with mortality everyday — in all age groups. Most of us will have had our first patients pass away on us during medical school. Then, of course there are many more than happen over the course of residency and your career.
Sometimes it’s struggle to deal with. We all deal with it in our own way. Some many cry. Some may need to get some quiet time in the corner. Others may harden their hearts a little and stash away their outward emotions.
However, please don’t mistake our lack of tears for lack of empathy or sympathy. When we say we’re sorry for your loss. It’s not just words… we really are. Just understand that we’ve seen this loss many times before and people grieve in different ways.
No matter what we say or do in this time of your loss, we could never truly understand what you’re going through. This is because the relationship you have with your lost loved one was unique to you. So, while it may come off as cold or emotionless when we say “I’m sorry for your loss” please understand that all we can do at this particular time is be sorry for your loss. Additionally, every time this happens, we are reminded again of our own mortality.
Life is gift… but it is ephemeral.
That said, I wanted to close this blog post with an apology for not writing my Finance Fridays post this last week. My daughter and son had an impromptu play date which went a lot longer than planned. Rather than rush out a poorly written article, I just opted to skip this last week. We should be back on a regular schedule starting today though.
Just some more ramblings about Mortality, and how I was reminded of it recently.
Also some commentary on how doctors deal with losing patients in different ways.
Life is a gift.
Agree? Disagree? Questions, Comments and Suggestions are welcome.
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