I was running several open files in my head: Children’s education, charting my program’s future course, how best to mentor graduate students interested in research with us, unrest in the world, a few research deadlines …
In the midst of it all, I saw a patient — a 43-year-old woman with a recently diagnosed large brain tumor. She is the nicest person you’ll ever meet, someone you would feel very comfortable sending your daughter to for a play date. She has three children, ages 14, 10 and 8. Physicians have given her at best nine more months.
I was jolted out of my open files.
After seeing her, I questioned the why of her suffering. But I didn't get any answer. My mind, limited by the three dimensions and a curtain that separates us from the other side, couldn't find a definitive answer for the why. There are hypotheses but nothing concrete.
The recurring thought after seeing her has been one of responsibility. Each day that I don’t have to struggle with a “diagnosis” is a gift. Every day spent in good health is a day loaned to me. I must resolve not to squander it in meaningless chatter, egocentric work, or negative thoughts. It is a day to serve and love.
- When I look at someone and silently send them a good wish, I serve and love;
- When I meet my loved ones, friends, or strangers, honoring their uniqueness, I serve and love;
- When I live my day focused on the higher values, I serve and love;
- When I share my energy, tangible or spiritual, expecting no reward, I serve and love.
If at the end of the day today I can remember at least a few such moments, I may have at least partially paid back for the gift of this day on which I did not have to meet four different doctors each hiding behind their cautious lips, words that could give a devastating blow to me and my family.
Living our days serving and loving in deference to those who cannot isn’t only our responsibility, it’s a privilege, a mandate, and an immeasurably precious gift, for us … and for everyone we touch.
Dr. Amit Sood answers your questions about stress, resilience, happiness, relationships, and related topics in his column. Email email@example.com.