To say that this past week has been an eventful one for me is king of understatement.
I attended the weddings of two good friends of mine, who, without consulting each other, scheduled their weddings only a week apart. In between these two weddings, I attended my mother's brother at his deathbed when he passed away from complications of lung cancer.
Having a ringside view to these major life events in such a short span of time has been exhausting and exhilarating, but a learning experience.
Both my friends M and K have love stories born from the unexpected - underscoring once more how life never fails to surprise. M's story began in the PGH delivery room, where she and her groom met while rotating in Obstetrics and fell in love while flirting over pregnant mothers in labor. K was reunited with the college sweetheart she broke with up after he left for the US with when she, in turn, chose to pursue her career there, too.
They were both beautiful and radiant brides, and anyone could see how happy they were as they began their new journey with their equally joyful husbands. It was a joy to watch them both surrounded by friends and family and blessed with the good wishes of everyone around them.
I realize, that for all my claims at cynicism, I am still a hopeless romantic and am counting on happily-ever-afters for both M and K. The gravity of the commitment they have made to their life partners is, to me, mind-boggling. The words, "To have and hold, in sickness and in health, till death do us part" are easy enough to say, but they are much harder to stand by - as current divorce statistics painfully emphasize. But with love as their ballast, I am hopeful that both couples will go the distance.
I was witness to another kind of journey when my uncle, who was diagnosed with late-stage lung cancer a few months ago, passed away en route to the hospital where we were bringing him for rapidly progressing pneumonia.
I was not very close to him, only seeing him a few times a year at best. But these past few months I have been, as the only doctor in the family, privy to the course of his illness and the difficult decisions his family has had to make because of it. While they were sad to see him go, it was equally difficult to see him as a pain-filled shadow of the man he was. They had decided early on that there would be no aggressive measures to revive him when the time came.
As a doctor, I have lost count of the number of times I have attended dying patients. We are no strangers to death nor grief. But I cannot begin to describe how I felt as I listened to the last faint beats of his heart until it finally stopped or when I had to break the news to the family that he was gone. Their grief was tempered by the relief of knowing that he was no longer suffering, and I saw once more the serenity that follows gracefully letting go.
But what struck me most was how each person's milestone event is a wonderful place to see love in all its forms - between parent and child, sisters and brothers, friends, lovers... and, for those who believe, the God's love that threads through it all. Whether it is a birth or a death, an ending or a beginning, a welcome or a farewell, these occasions celebrate love in action.
These milestones are reminders that Life is fleeting and frail, change its only constant companion, and that we must grab joy as it comes. But in the face of it all, we are reminded that love endures - and we are blessed to be rich with it.