On âBeing Mortalâ
On my fatherâs last Christmas, in 2014, I got him a book that it turned out he already had. When I asked if I could exchange it for something he wanted, he named a new title heâd just read about, Atul Gawandeâs âBeing Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End.â
For my dad, a retired doctor being slowly killed by Parkinsonâs disease, this was a perfect match: a physician authorâs book about dying, and about what makes a worthwhile existence even as your life is coming to a close.
My dad loved âBeing Mortal,â and urged me to read it. I stayed away from it as if it were kryptonite. Never did it occur to me that it might tell me something about my fatherâs experience that would be valuable to know while he was still here â that I would regret not knowing when he was gone.
It was only a few weeks ago, after I realized that the paperback was staring me down every time I popped into my favorite bookstore, that I finally screwed up my courage, got a copy for myself and dived in. It was slow going, mainly because of the flashbacks. They were most powerful where Dr. Gawande writes about the excruciating decline of his own father, also a doctor, who was taken aback, just as my dad was, when his body turned on him.
I hear my fatherâs voice in my head all the time. In any number of situations, I know exactly what he would say, which (possibly off-color) joke he would crack. But all the questions that âBeing Mortalâ sparked in me â I donât know what heâd have answered to them. I completely blew my chance to ask.
âTell Me a Storyâ
âTell me a story of when you were little,â Eurydice says to her father, and he…