By: Dr. Leah Katz, Guest Blogger
Image from www.newagenda.net
I recently attended a high school friends’ father’s funeral. As I sat in the Manhattan temple, I felt I was within the second lens at the end of a kaleidoscope. The first was created long ago, 16 years to be exact, when I sat at my mother’s funeral.
I was 11 then, 27 now; approximately 16 years of space in between the two lenses. I thought about the space- the learning lessons, experiences, perspective, successes, and failures that filled it with both pain and happiness. I believe we all build these lenses as we traverse life, they become part of our world, and moreover, how we see it. Out of focus, and we are lost in the daily stress and anxiety that encompasses so much of our experiences and days. When we stop, click the lenses in place, and see clearly, the world looks different: Our love and empathy for each other grows, and we are forced to think about the bottom line.
Like a kaleidoscope, one click to the left or right changes the picture completely, transforms the shades you see, and creates a new collage of color. As our personal lenses shift, daily stressors can no longer seem so important, the trivialness of life is able to melt away.
As I sat at the funeral, I saw many of the same faces I saw 16 years ago. Even as an 11-year-old, I understood the pain in parents’ faces. They knew how much I would miss out on, how many moments would be lost; I knew they were pained to think about abandoning their own children before they were ready. Parents hugged me tight and long, as if to make up for the hugs I would miss out on. Like many people who’s lives are cut short, my mother was enraged at all she knew she’d miss, too enraged to discuss the reality of her death before she died, too enraged to admit defeat after fighting so hard to stay alive.
The only beauty of death is the lessons the living learn. There are books, movies, poems, famous quotes, and songs dedicated to recognizing the beauty of our minutes, hours, and days in relation to our inevitable mortality. The problem is that we wait to click our lenses into focus until we are forced to, until we attend the next funeral or hear the next tragedy on the news.
A long time friend and I reconciled at the recent funeral after a falling out. We looked at each other and knew we were being ridiculous. Our empathy for each other in that moment was at its best, but so many moments that could have been shared were lost in our lapse of perspective. It reminded me of all we miss daily because our lenses are so often out of focus. How I paid more attention to the stress of intern year, than the patients and families who said thank you. I even missed the specialness of a patient’s hug because I was lost in my mental to-do list.
Unfortunately, hindsight is always 20/20 and missed perspective can only serve as a lesson for the future. After the funeral, I tried to keep my lenses aligned. Not surprisingly, my efforts quickly waned, but I hope through this blog, I can continue to encourage myself and others to always keep your lenses aligned.
About Leah: Leah graduated from the Tulane School of Medicine one year ago and will begin training in Radiation Oncology this July. Leah enjoys the clinical, scientific, and humanistic sides of cancer care. She is bikram yoga obsessed and in a love affair with NYC that is one year old and going strong.