A great tree.

I had the privilege today of honoring men and women whose lives were taken by a devastating disease called Mesothelioma. My father is one of those people.  Each year at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Dr. David Sugarbaker and his thoracic surgery team host a luncheon for the families of loved ones now deceased who “dug their heels in” and fought the fight of their lives.  Each one of these people stood at the edge of the “dark forest” and walked forward, braving the unknown, fighting- for themselves and their loved ones.

May God bless the courageous souls that we have lost, and give strength to the members of their families who stood beside them, and the health care providers who against adversity continue to forge a path through the dark forest for all of us.

a rose for each great soul

When Great Trees Fall
Maya Angelou

When great trees fall,
rocks on distant hills shudder,
lions hunker down
in tall grasses,
and even elephants
lumber after safety.

When great trees fall
in forests,
small things recoil into silence,
their senses
eroded beyond fear.

When great souls die,
the air around us becomes
light, rare, sterile.
We breathe, briefly.
Our eyes, briefly,
see with
a hurtful clarity.
Our memory, suddenly sharpened,
gnaws on kind words
promised walks
never taken.

Great souls die and
our reality, bound to
them, takes leave of us.
Our souls,
dependent upon their
now shrink, wizened.
Our minds, formed
and informed by their
fall away.
We are not so much maddened
as reduced to the unutterable ignorance
of dark, cold

And when great souls die,
after a period peace blooms,
slowly and always
irregularly.  Spaces fill
with a kind of
soothing electric vibration.
Our senses, restored, never
to be the same, whisper to us.
They existed.  They existed.
We can be.  Be and be
better.  For they existed.

~in memory of one of the greatest…


7 responses

  1. I was so honored to be present at this beautiful Memorial Service and luncheon with my son, Bob, and my daughter, Carolyn, by my side. The pain of the loss of my beloved husband, Bob, is lightened each day by the love and support of my three loving children, nine grandchildren, and so many wonderful, supportive friends.

    • It is a blessing to have this memorial service each year, this being my second year of attendance after losing Mike within 6 months of his first symptoms & that we expected would be diagnosed as asthma. Our husbands would be so proud of us Donna, and Carolyn your Dad – remembering them – honoring them. Thanks for taking & posting the photo Carolyn. I’ll be sharing it with my daughters and also Carleen Smedley of CA, who’s husband was one of those remembered.

      • Definitely! I thought I had taken a video while the names were being read, but turns out I wasn’t…I’m so glad you were there for her to put her husband’s rose in. Loved it.

  2. I’m so glad you were able to attend this luncheon this year, Carolyn. It’s a tribute to those who have battled this insidious disease with such courage and grace. We know how brave your dad was, how loving he was in those final weeks, even though his voice was silenced. Jack and I talk about him often, and we miss our friend during so many times of celebration and trial. Thought of him at Mass this morning and had a nice chat with him at the same time. I know he heard me. Love you, Ann

  3. Carolyn,

    Thank you for this beautiful message. I remember your family so vividly as I sat many hours in the ICU and the 11th floor waiting room in October 2010. The thoughts that come to my mind are of the deep sadness your family was experiencing which I too knew one day I would be also. My beautiful daughters were with me and they were devastated by your pain. They would talk to your brother and watch his son cry and try to deal with the pain. I remember you saying “if I knew I would never hear his voice again, I never would have let them intubate him”. I too struggle from time to time about my husband’s treatment plan, but as it was spoken about at the luncheon, he was a pioneer and wanted to do anything to extend his life’s journey. He was willing to help BWH look for as cure as they gave him life extension. Fortunately my Rick was able to see his daughter marry 6 weeks prior to his death and see a 4D ultrasound of his grandson 17 days prior to his death. Although he never saw him, I know he does now and is smiling upon all of us now. I hope to be there next year for the memorial service and look forward to seeing you and your mom again along with Maureen.

    • Oh My Goodness! I remember you as well Carleen…I especially remember your daughters! I remember thinking those words, but I don’t remember really saying them. I guess time blurs everything. It is so true though. I didn’t know that I would never hear his voice again, but as I look back, perhaps I really did. I say this because the night they intubated my father, I wouldn’t leave his side, and the nurse knew not to ask me to leave the room. I slept in a chair. I knew it was a huge step, but I hoped it would be a step forward for him. I loved the luncheon because it brought back memories, although hard to handle at times, but it also stressed the fact that we all held on to HOPE with all we had. I am so glad that your husband was able to take part in those life events you wrote of; I am sure that he is loving his grandson as I I write this to you. Maureen was great and put a rose in the vase for Rick, which I am sure you are so grateful for. He is not forgotten. Those men and women, like I said, were courageous and I have nothing but admiration for each and every one. I hope that time has you feeling better. I think about my father every single day. He speaks to me all of the time, although I just can’t hear his voice. God bless you and your family as you make your way through this pain. I certainly hope to see you next year at the service. Be Well, and say hello to your daughters for me.

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