It’s been a hard couple of days at work. I’ve had a tidal wave of patients with great sorrows.  Several are facing the imminent death of a parent or a pet. Others had fateful handicaps of sudden unemployment, or a newly discovered tumor, or a financial hardship. It gets to me. They are coming in to see me for some help or for an explanation that might make some sense out of the senseless. They don’t need prescriptions; they need resources and the comfort of others.   Alas, both are often in short supply. Sometimes I prescribe something which is helpful, not because it really does anything, but it gives them some sense of control in an otherwise uncontrollable situation. I stammer out words meant to help but these are usually lame and useless.

It is an aspect of my profession. When you make a living out of human suffering it does bring you down from time to time.  You wish you could do more.  How I long to wave a magic wand and produce a happy pill, or a sizeable loan, or a friend whom they can call at any hour.

In the ‘good old days’ the mere presence of a physician gave comfort and healing. Nowadays with physicians stripped of authority and/or power there is little if any healing this way.   We pull down the authority figures and then, childlike, we look for someone to comfort us when we cry.

I hang on to the lesson I learned in “King Lear”:  sometimes all you can is be with them in the stormy wilderness as they howl and rage.

It still counts; it does some good.  Perhaps not much.  But it does something.

Heal sometimes; comfort always.

King Lear and the Fool

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