Feet First

“It is much more important to know what sort of a patient has a disease than what sort of a disease a patient has.” - Sir William Osler

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    Monday, February 23, 2004

    That's not his real name, but I would like to preserve his privacy.

    Michael and I went to the same church. I got to know him well over the years; he was a kind and generous guy, deeply spiritual (he was a Benedictine oblate). He loved to throw dinner parties, and would share his theater tickets with friends regularly. Sadly, he also struggled with clinical depression for many years.

    He killed himself a few days ago. His neighbor found him on Saturday.

    I was called Saturday night by another church member, also one of Michael's friends, who was trying to get the phone number of the doctor who took care of him. I found the number for him and then struggled with shock and denial for hours afterwards. The next day, at church, word had clearly gotten around: We stood in little clumps, discussing and mourning.

    Michael stayed at my house for several weeks in the fall of 2001, while work was being done on his house. He was there, in fact, on September 11. I remember the two of us sitting in shock that night after getting home from work. Every time I go into my spare bedroom now, I think of him. Most of all I keep thinking of the coffee mug I'd gotten for him for Christmas. He canceled his annual Christmas party because he wasn't feeling well (in retrospect, I think that was a danger sign) and then I went out of town for the holiday, so that I never got around to giving it to him. It's still in its gift box in my closet.

    I think it's going to be there for a long time. I can't bring myself to give it to anyone else; it's his, even if he never got it.



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