October 9, 2014

Goodbye is a tough one! I’m talking about big goodbyes, not the ones that come when we’re leaving for work, going home after a party, or even when we send our children away to school or camp.

(Before I go further, I’m well and healthy, and going nowhere anytime soon. Just feeling and writing, truly!)

In the past few weeks I’ve seen a film clip and two essays about saying goodbye. Each touched me differently, but they share the common theme that how we say goodbye matters greatly.

First up is the film clip—second item I ran across—titled Made in New York. It’s a 1:31 commercial for Gatorade, featuring now former New York Yankee star Derek Jeter saying goodbye to New York.

Now, we know about Mr. Jeter because he succeeded in a game where you have to hit a little ball going past you very quickly, catch and throw the same ball when it’s hit or thrown at or near you, and run fast when you need to. Boston Red Sox star Ted Williams said “[b]aseball is the only field of endeavor where a man can succeed three times out of ten and be considered a good performer.” Mr. Jeter met (and slightly exceeded) Mr. Williams’ measure, succeeding 31 times out of 100. Alas, while baseball is just a game, Mr. Jeter did much, much more that matters than get a hit slightly more often than three times out of ten. He was a very, very good performer and team leader, but was also on the right stage, in the right time, and he played the game clean. That counts, and it’s why he gets to say goodbye His Way!

The last item I saw was The Best Possible Day, written by Atul Gawande, M.D. for the New York Times on October 5. Dr. Gawande’s clear and insightful observations about health care in America have truly mattered. He’s my “go to” writer for understanding health care!

In The Best Possible Day Dr. Gawande previews his new book, Being Mortal:  Medicine and What Matters in the End, in a deeply personal way, as he recounts the tale of his daughter’s piano teacher’s final days. You will cry! I think you’ll also appreciate how, at least here, Dr. Gawande has used his pen as a scalpel, eviscerating the likes of Sarah Palin, Betsy McCaughey, and others whose stock in trade has been scaring people into believing the government will send them to an early grave because Medicare pays physicians to talk about end of life issues. Life is nuanced, truly, and when we make time for listening to those we serve, we can make their lives better.

Finally, Goodbyes was prompted by Kim Bourn’s Facebook post, sharing And So There Must Come an End by Charlotte Kitley. Ms. Kitley died on September 16 and her post appeared the next day at The Huffington Post. Charley—that’s how Ms. Kitley signed off—lived well, but it’s clear from her words that she left us all too soon, and that she’s someone most of us missed knowing. (You’ll cry here, too!)

So for now I bid you adieu, blessed by family, friends, and others around me, fully expecting that I’ll be back in your faces come Saturday.

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