Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Emotional Distance

Several people have recently expressed awe over health-care workers’ ability to keep an emotional distance from their patients and their patients’ families.

I don’t remember receiving formal training in that objectivity -- other than via medicine’s many analyses and algorithms, which, I suppose, do help to keep things fairly well up in the intellect and away from the emotions of doctors and others.

It’s similar, I suppose, to the choreography of the uniformed officer who strode to the gravesite last Saturday and retrieved the folded American flag from atop my father-in-law’s casket. He brought it to my mother-in-law and stooped toward her. His voice was clear and even: “On behalf of the President of the United States and a grateful nation, this flag is presented as a token of appreciation for your husband’s honorable and faithful service to his country.” He straightened to full height, took one step backward and raised his hand in a long salute to the flag.

Then he turned left-face and strode away, generating a breeze that made my cheek damp.

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