I watched the grainy, blocky video in silence. My friend was singing â€œLandÂslideâ€ and I felt a cerÂtain tautÂness in my eyeÂbrows and a pecuÂliar heaviÂness in the corÂners of my mouth. By now it had become a familÂiar feelÂing, this physÂiÂcal expresÂsion ofÂ sorrow.
Can the child within my heart rise above
Can I sail through the changÂing ocean tides
Can I hanÂdle the seaÂsons of myÂ life?â€
~FleetÂwood Mac, â€œLandÂslide,â€ The Dance, 1997
Sonia Lee â€™06, whose melÂlow and resÂoÂnant voice was capÂtured in that video, passed away in 2007, during my second year of medical school. For most of our mutual friends at our college Christian fellowship, her passÂing became our first encounter with the death of a friend. In many ways, it chalÂlenged my most deeply held conÂvicÂtions about the way the world works. I went to medÂical school with the growÂing conÂvicÂtion that my callÂing was to deal with death and sufÂferÂing on the proÂfesÂsional level, but this experience â€” so unexÂpected, tragic, and terÂriÂfyÂingly personal â€” cast everyÂthing under a difÂferÂentÂ pall.
Sonia had acute myeloid leukemia. The onset was rapid and comÂpletely unexÂpected by friends and famÂily alike. I can still rememÂber the dread of the moment I first found out: a string of e-mails with the titles â€œUrgent prayer for Soniaâ€¦â€ waitÂing quiÂetly in my inbox. Sonia and I had been good friends durÂing our underÂgradÂuÂate years but had fallen out of touch since my gradÂuÂaÂtion two years prior and I had not heard much from her since then, which made the sudÂdenÂness and ferocÂity of the disÂease all the more shockÂing. A full year in medÂical school did nothÂing to preÂpare me for the daily anxÂiÂety of openÂing my e-mail in anticÂiÂpaÂtion of an update from the famÂily on her conÂdiÂtion. I still have all those e-mails: seventy-seven mesÂsages with headÂings rangÂing from â€œA posÂiÂtive turn for Sonia!â€ to â€œSonia â€” Chemotherapy day 3â€ and â€œEmerÂgency request forÂ platelets.â€ [Read more…] about The Pursuit of Suffering