Image not available.

(Book of Divine Works) … on the cover of JAMA

post a comment

Sulmasy and Somerville

post a comment

Inspired by a Tolstoy novella, Kurosawa produces a masterpiece dealing with a topic which every human grapples with at one time or another, but which we all choose to ignore. Set in the times of the aftermath of the second world war, the movie chronicles the journey of a Japanese civic clerk coming to terms with his mortality in the form of stomach cancer. With only six months of remaining life, Watanabe tries various means to repress it, only to be repeatedly reminded of his imminent death. He begins to question the existential tenets involving his relationship with his son which had been driving his life up until that point. Feeling unloved by his family, Watanabe slowly spirals into a place of darkness and despair. This very desolate spot helps him reclaim a context not just to his disease but to his life. He has to draw strength within himself to prevail upon the bureaucracy he himself had created to give birth to something beautiful and meaningful for others. Ikiru by Akira Kurosawa – Japanese w/ English subtitles. (text by Ragneel Bijjula)

post a comment

“Through a Time of Darkness … I Found the Solid Point of a Restart”
I cannot look at the countless events that happened in the past year but with a great gratitude which moves me to tears. It has, paradoxically, been the toughest year and at the same time the most revolutionary one because of the sign of a great preference for me. I was going through a time of darkness in my life, like Dante in the first Canticle from The Divine Comedy.
I was literally at risk of ruining and throwing away all the dearest things of my life.  At a certain point, the Lord through the brave faces of my friends, decisively put me up against the wall. At that precise moment, right when I discovered that I was in need of everything, I started following these same friends because I glimpsed a proposal of something good for me.
A little later, another sign of preference came to me (not any sweeter than the first one): the health conditions of  Dionino–a member of the Memores Domini living in London–deteriorated and a friend asked me if I could be the liaison between the doctors in the UK and those in Italy. I started going to visit Dionino, whom I didn’t know very well–the relationship had to be built from scratch. The very first time I walked into the house, I met  this person who was on his deathbed while maintaining his dignity as a man. Initially, it was not simple because Dionino kept asking a lot of questions, both medical and personal, in front of which I had to answer very honestly. Many times, I would have preferred to run away.
For this reason, this simple weekly dialogue forced me to work on myself personally. That is, I realized that to stand in front of him, I had first to be serious and honest with myself. I could not tell him half-truths–Dionino needed loyalty and sincerity. And it was like this the entire time: while he walked toward and prepared himself to see Jesus, I walked with him and, following him, I regained myself. The loyalty to that weekly meeting with him was born within this dynamic.
I realized that I could not help but to continue visiting him because his open humanity was what I was looking for, for myself. Dionino, through his experience, helped to awaken my desire to be alive. Within the reciprocal affection which was born, a familiarity developed  because we shared the same tension toward Destiny.
This affection spread among the others in the Memores Domini  house;  in addition the relationship with my boyfriend and friends flourished again. The initial intuition of good turned into a personal work, looking at a man who lived his encounter with Jesus in a human way, and finally into a solid judgment, forced by his death. This judgment is that it is true that in accompanying someone to death, one can regain life.
Now, in the daily struggle, getting “stuck” again is easy, but thanks to the flesh of His preference seen through the face of my friends and within the circumstances, I have learned to recognize Him, and this will remain always the solid point of a new beginning. It wasn’t the dramatic circumstances that made this past year so extraordinary, but the fact that I have learned to love Jesus more by following a man who wanted to embrace Him. Through this, I learned to love myself, my humanity and then everything around me.
Giulia, London (Traces Jan ‘14)

post a comment

… John Tavener died this past fall … Plough obituaryNYT obituary

For the last six years of his life, Tavener was crippled and in constant pain. Already suffering from Marfan syndrome, a congenital disease that affected his heart, eyes, and muscles, he suffered a series of heart attacks which he barely survived. He commented, “The big danger of Marfan is that you can suffer a rupture at any time, and you go quickly. So I suppose I live with the thought of death very much in front of me.”

Last July, he told an interviewer that he had learned to be grateful for his suffering from the disease. “Having pain all the time makes me terribly, terribly grateful for every moment I’ve got.” (from Plough obit)

post a comment

… or “How to cure yourself of road rage.”

Thoracic surgeon Jeffrey Piehler builds his own coffin … with profound effects in his relationships with family, friends and himself.

post a comment

We sicken before we die so that we will be weaned from our body. The milk that nourished us grows thin and sour; turning away from the breast, we begin to be restless for a separate life. Yet this first life, this life on earth, on the body of earth – will there, can there ever be a better? Despite all the glooms and despairs and rages, I have not let go of my love of it.

Age of Iron JM Coetzee (p. 13)

post a comment

… acknowledgment of the personhood of sufferers and affirmation of their condition and struggle have long been recognized as the most basic and sustaining of moral acts, whether among the friendship and kin network or in patient—physician and other professional relationships. The laying on of hands, empathic witnessing, listening to the illness narrative, and providing moral solidarity through sustained engagement and responsibility over the course of chronic illness and in the terminal period are all core moral tasks in caregiving. Theorists of caregiving have also identified “presence”—being there, existentially, even when nothing practical can be done and hope itself is eclipsed—as central to the giving of care. And it is also important in care receiving, because caregiving is almost always a deeply interpersonal, relational practice that resonates with the most troubling preoccupations of both carer and sufferer about living, about self, and about dignity. [read all of Kleinman’s piece in the Lancet]

post a comment

… openings to a deeper identity

December 31, 2013

Widows and widowers know the wrenching grief the death of a spouse brings, and the great gaping wound it leaves in one’s life. Anna, the prophetess, experienced this at much too young an age. She could not have been much older than twenty-one or twenty-two when she lost her husband, and may have been a […]

[continue reading …]

it’s a wonderful life …

December 20, 2013

… and suicide. On watching “It’s a Wonderful Life” last night, I was struck by many things. But maybe most of all by the accuracy of its portrayal of the suicide. As Paul McHugh says in The Mind Has Mountains … “Most suicidally depressed patients are not rational individuals who have weighed the balance sheet […]

[continue reading …]