Thursday, December 16, 2010

It's the price you pay for the gifts you get

When I was a kid this phrase occurred to me whenever I seemed to have more stress than I wanted in life (especially doing homework!). It's come to mind lately when I think of Adam and Evan going through the transition from 'ordinary' times to 3rd yr med students with 36 hour shifts starting at 6 AM. As Evan said 'Damn, this is really hard!' You can't know beforehand exactly what it's like to be a doctor. Marika also has gone through tough times recently in simultaneously taking a heavy course load and studying for the medical college admission test.
Yesterday, I thought of this phrase also during Bonnie Opper's funeral. The turnout was enormous and it was obvious that she had touched so many people. The entire experience has left me thoughtful about what we leave behind. Since we had our transplants the same day, it naturally reminded me that my longevity is not great.
I've received a lot of gifts in my life. I've mentioned 3 already and a 4th (Karen) many times. I need to add my sisters (Genie and Meryl)and my cousins, who have given me so much, including new bone marrow. Taking photos is another...I don't have to work at it very hard, and the results seem to give a lot of pleasure to people. The books I wrote in 1995 and 2000 were similar; I don't know exactly where they came from. I'd put medical research in the same category; it wasn't something I expected and it's been very rewarding.
Having leukemia and surviving is also a gift, believe it or not. When my friend Jim Goldstein asked me if this changed my perspective, I said no. That was soon after I returned to work and my mind was filled with the urgency to pick up all the pieces. But gradually I realized that I do see the world differently. For one thing, I'm happier. This is it for me; I don't have forever so I'd better pay attention to how beautiful the world is. In one of his books, Carlos Castenada's character Don Juan told him to 'take death as your advisor'.
Bonnie's death was sad for about 1 day. Then I realized that it's the price you pay for the gifts you get.


1 comment:

  1. Gil and Karen,

    It was so good to see you at Bonnie's memorial. The kids and I have planned a last minute trip to Marco Island, FL. We leave Sat. and return on the 29th for a much needed rest and refreshment with the objective of returning to a "new" normal life without Bonnie.

    Thank you so much for your friendship, encouragement and tenacity in getting our group together often. I look forward to being with you and the Cornells at the next get together knowing Bonnie will be there in spirit!