I just sent out an email about our next medical staff meeting on August 3rd. There it is…the 3rd of the month again, exactly seven months since we lost our beautiful Jack. He is constantly on my mind, more than anyone probably knows, but the 3rd of each month stings like being hit in the nose with a basketball. After I emailed that out, I started going through my mail. I’d like to share a letter I received that helped take the sting away. The letter is from my roommate and great friend from medical school.
“Dear Mike and Shelly,
I am so sorry to hear of the death of your son Jack in January. I thought of Jack just two days ago in talking about UNMC with my daughter Emily and just learned of your horrible loss today. I am so very sorry and can hardly find the words to write. I can’t conceive of how much pain you have both endured and it physically hurts me to think about that.
Mike, I can remember that you and I talked at my brother’s tailgate in Lincoln 4 years ago that we both had children who were entering college and were premed. We spoke about how awesome it would be if they ended up classmates at UNMC. I was just certain that this would happen and I looked forward to not only our children meeting each other and becoming friends, but I also hoped I would see you again in Omaha at a UNMC event at some point. I spoke with Emily Monday and I asked her to look for Jack’s name in the Facebook page for UNMC 2020 students as I was certain he would choose UNMC. Not finding him there and in searching for him we discovered news of his death. He was clearly extremely bright, affable and loved by all.
You may remember many years ago, my brother suffered from an illness that made him suicidal. This aspect of his illness was so sudden and unexpected that no one could have predicted his thoughts or intentions. I am sure Jack knew he was loved unconditionally and it was an illness no different than cancer that took his life.
Please forgive me if I am not saying things the best way. Mike, you are truly one of the best friends I have ever had and it gives me great discomfort to know of your family’s loss of son and brother. I read through your blog posts and it is so clear that Jack felt loved and grew up in a wonderful family. Your words are an inspiration to me in many ways. I have realized I have not always acted like a friend when we were in school and was/is self-absorbed, narcissistic and I apologize for that. I was not there for you in many ways like you were there for me. I have realized through your words and how you are handling your son’s loss how precious our families are and that I need to act differently toward my own family. I have missed seeing you and I hope we can get together sometime. Our family is going to have a reunion in Des Moines next July around July 4th and Martha and I would really love to meet your family if you are in town.
I also saw on your blog post that your son Cole is interested in medicine and goes to Creighton. I make two trips a year to Belize City for mission eye surgery and if he would like additional experience we could use his help. I have taken many students and they enjoy the hands-on care and being part of a team. (even if he doesn’t want to grow up to be an ophthalmotometrist*) Please call me any time.
Wow, that was beautiful. It is reassuring to remember how interconnected we all are. Dave is truly a better friend than I and one of the very best people I have ever known. It’s actually so comforting to hear him compare fatal mental illness to cancer. I have heard it before, but coming from the smartest medical doctor I know, it means more. Thanks for your love David.
True compassion runs deeper than the kind of grief in which we know only of pain from another’s death. True compassion seeks to understand, or at least recognize, the tragedy dealt to a life suddenly lost. - Walt Whitman
*not misspelled, rather an inside joke between me and Dave!
-Dr. Michael Hurt, CMO