Everybody has a tragic story
THURSDAY, April 29 – I’m sitting in the public gallery during a symposium in honor of a colleague who’s retiring. Sitting next to me is a woman who lost her sister during a simple operation. She was in her late forties. Elsewhere in the audience there’s a colleague whose son committed suicide last year. In front of me was another, whose wife is fighting a losing battle against a brain tumor.
Everyone carries some sort of tragedy, some more heartwrenching than others. Those who have endured great suffering and are still weighed down by the pain do not necessarily show it. Often they don’t want others to know. But among ourselves, it isn’t necessary. Exchanging a look of understanding, a meaningful smile or wink, is more than enough. The widower-to-be puts out his hand. I grasp it with both my hands and press it. Among companions in adversity, that is more than enough.
At the reception following the symposium there is time to mingle. How I’m doing six months later is still the only question that non-fellow-sufferers ask. Occasionally, someone makes a painful mistake. A jovial colleague, for whom the event took place too long ago, comes over to me and calls out: ‘Hey, Tim. How’re you doing? Now what did I hear? You’re divorced or some such thing?’
I can’t help but laugh.