The circle of life: another family death, and a glorious child

Dorron & family, 2007

Dorron & family, 2007

Photo of Steve


I have such conflicted feelings about this. Another brother’s death, as the circle of life continues. It. Just. Feels. Wrong.

Having survived my own near-death seven years ago, I celebrate being alive whenever I can. So it hit me like bricks last May when my younger brother Steve died, and again in December when my best friend Dorron died. These were the first unexpected deaths I’ve ever experienced close to me.

And they were both eight years younger than me. Incomprehensible. It just doesn’t make sense, a life ending with eight years less experience??

My brother Ken


And then two days ago I learned that another brother, Ken, age 62, has died unexpectedly. So now our six siblings are down to four.

I just freakin’ don’t know how to process this. I don’t like it, I’m not rational, of course it’s not rational, it grabs the brain at a far more primitive level than logic can ever address.  I’m rereading my post about Steve’s death, and boy is it on target. Death has been around a lot longer than human thought has, and it’s apparent to me that we as social creatures are constituted to not like it, and get upset when one of our tribe disappears.

Ken, like Steve, smoked and drank. Nothing like having some public health statistics step up and kick you in the face.

And then … then we have my magnificent granddaughter Zoe, who yesterday shared my birthday brunch with me (and her mom).

With granddaughter 2-16-2014What bright eyes, what a happy start of this new life – even while teething on a teaspoon. It feels like a great honor and the greatest joy to be part of this new person’s beginning. Who will you be when you’re thirty, ZoZo??

And boy does that cause incongruous resonance with the end of a life. I’ve known Ken … well, since he was born. Hell, he was my roommate growing up. And now he’s gone.

It just doesn’t make sense. But, I see it – the circle of life.

Someone asked why I’m writing this. I’m writing it partly because I want to – it’s my frickin blog – there’s a bit of anger for you. I write it partly because this is how I process feelings – verbally.

And I write it partly because each of these deaths has made me freshly aware of what healthcare providers face all the time: sometimes a patient dies.

And sometimes you see a patient who you know risks dying sooner because of factors you can see. And sometimes you save someone, or you really improve their life. Which is the miracle you went to school for.

It’s skilled work, brilliant when done right, and it takes a big heart, unless the heart gets beaten out of you by a system that’s lost its heart. In any case, the work matters.

Oh, and here comes another wave of I Don’t Like It That My Brother Died, and the on-and-off tears that brings.

Here’s to all who preserve life. Patients, step up: do what you can. Get help when you need it, and don’t stop getting help. And providers, please – when a patient wants to be engaged, Let Patients Help.


16 comments to The circle of life: another family death, and a glorious child

  • Dear Dave,

    My condolences to you and all your family on the loss of your brother, Ken. The death of a loved one hurts deeply and reminds us: We’re on this earth but for a short while. The work you do matters. And the light in your granddaughter’s eyes is what makes our short while, so very worthwhile.

    With love and in sympathy, Lucy Jo

  • Helen Hadley

    My thoughts are with you. I understand and feel your pain.

    Helen Hadley

  • So sorry to hear this. Losing a family member is so hard.

  • Brenda french

    Dave I have often wondered being #3 of four who might go first. The truth is we never know. I am a nurse and like you have said sometimes they die. My mother working on 8th often comments that someone else has died. I gently remind her we all will. It is the circle of life.

  • Dave, I’m so sorry to hear this news. Three back-to-back first-degree losses…unimaginably difficult. My thoughts are with you (I, too, am one of six siblings) and I am grateful your granddaughter is here to provide the sparks of hope and comfort you and your family need at this time.

  • Clichés don’t help: this does suck. All I can say is the earth a better place for having people like you to learn from, Dave. A friend of mine who recently died told me about two months ago: “My world is shrinking. I remember how good it felt to play tennis and go to the opera. I love those things and I can’t do them anymore, and I miss them. Still, I am so glad I had an opportunity to do all of that in my life, and am so lucky for so many things.” Similarly, I’m lucky to have known him. I’m still reading an incredible book he recommended that we talked about for several months. I will remember what he said to me in all manner of situations.

    Despite all this, you’re still a lucky man, and we are lucky to know you. So I’m glad you’re sticking around. Now go kick some ass and keep making things better. You’re already a legend and we all thank you for that. So go be continued…

  • Jim Guarnera

    This is tough news, Dave.

    Ken was a high school classmate and friend.

    Grandchildren certainly do reconnect us with Life from its roots, and an appreciation for the so-called little things which, in the end, are often the most memorable.

    I enjoy your blogs !

  • Judi (Hopp) Deziel

    Dave, I wanted you to know how sad I was to hear this news. I, too, lost a brother far too early. My older brother died at 54. And there are other losses that have occurred. I fully understand your anger and your loss.

    My thoughts are with you and your family. There’s no words that will help the sorrow or pain. We never know when our time is called.

    You’ve made such an impact with your life helping others. For what it’s worth, I’m proud to have known you in high school and am very impressed with how you’ve taken adversity and turned it into helping others.

    • e-Patient Dave

      My gosh, Judi – this is the first time we’ve connected since high school, isn’t it?? Wow. Hearing from Jim and you provides another reminder that in addition to the “circle” of life, there are the millions and millions of threads that go on. Thanks so much to both of you for writing.

      • Judi (Hopp) Deziel

        Dave, I’ve read about e-Patient Dave through a link that I got from someone from MHS a while ago. So sad to reconnect over this news but I’m glad we did. Jim was nice enough to post the link on Facebook. My best to you and your family.

  • Carl Bovermann

    Your use of the word “waves” is so appropriate. You have a great strength Dave. I sincerely pray that the pain will soon be replaced by the pleasure and joy of many happy memories.

    • e-Patient Dave

      Thanks, Carl. Through all three deaths that’s what I’ve observed.

      I’m going okay – I keep myself occupied with work, and I’m very busy with events and travel the next two weeks. But I also have training in not suppressing or denying my feelings.

  • Wendy (Pool) Silette

    I’m reaching out in this time of grief. Ken was a high school classmate of mine as well. I’m so sorry for your loss.

  • Terry Zaspel

    I,m sorry to hear about your loss, Ken was also a high school classmate of mine.

  • e-Patient Dave

    Jim, Wendy, Terry, Judi, it’s so great to see you here. Thank you so much.

    I have a brick from the old MHS… have been back there several times in recent years.

  • […] months (actually years) I’ve been planning to write this happy, cheery post. Then, as I wrote yesterday, my brother died last week, on top of two other close deaths in the past nine […]

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