Monday, November 26, 2012

Back to work.

I went back to work today. And specifically, I went to the Grady wards to assume the service I was supposed to pick up on November 16. People were sick, too. The team is busy and there was a lot going on.

A whole lot.

So how'd it go? Mostly, it was fine. I was reminded of how much love is in that place. Just . . .wow. Everywhere I went, I was embraced by fellow physicians, nurses, social workers and patient transporters--you name it. All with quiet, respectful eyes and those types of hugs that will make you cry if you aren't careful.

Not that I'm trying to avoid crying or anything.  But I'm just saying--you know those types of hugs when you get them.

Anyways. There was one point in my day where I sat beside a man who was crying about his loved one. "Boo-hoo" crying as my best friend Lisa D. calls it. He was a Grady elder who had been married for longer than I've been alive. His whole body was shaking and heaving and out from his mouth poured the most desperate and mournful of cries. All while I sat between him and their adult children, both of whom were crying, too.


In that moment I realized something. I'm a different person now. Kind of like how my pediatric clinical acumen and bedside manner sharpened after having babies of my own. This kind of pain was no longer hypothetical. I felt my heart reaching out to his, my touch more knowing. Less about sympathy, more about empathy.

Interestingly, though, I wasn't crying. And you know that I have no issues with crying in front of my patients. Especially my Grady elders. But for whatever reason, I just held his arm and stayed silent. Feeling his rhythmic rocking and periodically handing him more tissue. And I was okay because his cries felt like they were almost in solidarity with those I've released recently.

I was rounding with Sarah, our medical student today. Just the two of us. After the umpteenth person offered me condolences in the hallway, I explained to her that I'd just lost my sister and that today was my first day back. And saying that to someone who doesn't know is both awkward and awful. Awkward because what are they supposed to say to that beyond the sorry? Is it safe to smile or laugh on rounds? It's hard to tell, right? It's also awful because. . .well, it just is. But when Sarah and I left that room with that crying elder, she looked in my eyes with genuine concern and asked if I was okay. She touched my shoulder and made sure to check on me. Me.

I appreciated that. I did. I appreciated this student who was on her first day working on this team acknowledging my reality right in that moment. I told her I did, too. And I told her I was okay. Because I was.

And look. Let me just say for the record that I am not coaching myself to feel any kind of way. Like I'm not fighting to be strong or whatever thing people think they're supposed to be in times like this. But I'm also not forcing myself to hang my head and look the part of whatever this part is supposed to look like. I'm just responding to myself and feeling how I feel. And what I am sharing is how I feel which, as crazy as it sounds, is mostly peaceful.

Someone told me I looked "peaceful" today. And I told them that this was a good word for it. Because I am. Of course, I'm very sad. In fact, if I may be frank, this whole thing effing sucks. But even still-- it's just hard to have someone like Deanna in your life even for a moment and not feel swept up in a wave of gratitude. So I guess that gives me a lot of peace.


I got to tell a lot of people about my sister today. I told them of her qualities and why I loved her so. Or love her so. See? There's that "tense" thing again. But what can you do? You walk through it, you love through it. That's what I am doing.

My friend, Natalie L., wrote these words to me today regarding my "tense" struggle:

"deanna's presence is so strong around you enveloping you and your family with such power. how can the person who is responsible for this force be described with the word 'was'? she cannot. she is most certainly an 'is'."  

Those words comforted me. So thanks for that, Natalie. You are a true friend.

Yeah. So I returned to work today.  Baptized by fire on the Grady wards. And, like always, it was filled with joy, pain, sunshine and rain. But as a wise man (okay, Frankie Beverly) once wrote: "Where there's the flower, there's the sun and the rain. Oh, but it's wonderful--they're both one and the same."

This I know for sure.

Night, night. And thanks for continuing to listen because it's helping me.

Now playing, music from a wise man named Frankie Beverly with a funky baseline provided by his band, Maze. Y'all don't know nothin' 'bout this.


  1. I always seem to follow Elizabeth on commenting and she always says the right thing. So yes- what Elizabeth said.
    And yes, there is a peace which can come after a death. Even, dare I say it? a sort of universal understanding which as far as I know, cannot be achieved any other way.
    We are beings who die and as such, I do believe our brains have evolved to a point where there is something that happens in them when someone dies that opens up and allows us to view the world in a different, more realistic way. Does that make sense?
    Loving you.

  2. I'm so glad that your work family is embracing you as you return to work. I often feel like our life experiences -- good and bad -- are *meant* to soften our hearts toward each other. Thinking of you this day. ~ Laura

  3. Elizabeth is right. Feeling how you feel is the right way to do this. Sharing your journey with us is brave, kind and therapeutic too, I suppose.

    And it's strange, isn't it, gaining admission to the club of those who've lost someone deeply loved? It colors and informs your life in ways good and bad, happy and sad. More glad than sad :)

    It was always the kindness of others that broke me. I could always maintain my composure unless someone was kind or looked deeply into my eyes to see if I was ok. I am. You are too.

    hugs to you.

  4. My Back Inc., My sister, my friend Kim,

    It takes...
    One day at a time,
    One step in front of the other,
    One long deep breath,
    One look in the sky,
    One smile, One laugh
    One walk, One run
    One thought, One dream and prayer
    That's all it takes...

    Thinking of you, praying for you and sending love your way!

    Front,Inc./Crystal and Acquilla

  5. Boy, do I know those hugs. Today I had to pull up my bootstraps and return the trombone my daughter had just started playing. The only trouble is they want to know WHY you're returning it. I tried to brush away the explanation that we just wouldn't be needing it... but they asked again. I took a deep breath and said, "I'm sorry. I might cry when I say this - and I don't want you to feel awkward, but my daughter was killed in a car accident a month ago, but she really, really loved the trombone and really wanted to play it." Yep, it was awkward. And I felt bad. But then I got to tell the lady behind the counter (and the customers behind me) about her: "She was a really great kid whose heart was right with the Lord. We called her a God Girl because, well, that's what she was." And I felt better after that.

    This is a crazy journey - but it's filled with love and faith and grace. Lots and lots of grace!! I'll continue to be lifting you up in prayers.

  6. Thinking of you this morning, hoping you have smiled more than once today already.
    Anush (can't seem to log in from my phone right now)

  7. I'm sorry for your loss. Didn't know. Your writing on this subject and everything is precious.

  8. Just catching up here after the holiday and so, so sorry to hear of your sudden loss of your sister. I know a little bit how you feel as I lost my brother, younger by only 11 months, suddenly this past August. Keep talking to her, I know she is listening from the spirit world and watching over you and yours. Sending big sisterly love from this corner of the ether. x0000 N2


"Tell me something good. . . tell me that you like it, yeah." ~ Chaka Khan

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