Monday, April 8, 2013


Me and my father.

What does this word imply, what does it mean in our lives? 

The new "A"


Last Fall was my first semester in PA school and passing was everyone's new goal.  We were all suddenly downstream of torrents of information that had to be absorbed, cataloged and integrated on a precise schedule.  Passing is optimal in this situation.
Our scholastic aspirations had been about earning A's and getting into physician assistant school, scrambling toward our dream of becoming a PA.
But now we were suddenly happy to get a passing grade. 
A "C" was the new "A."  Many of us never thought we would see this day but we did. 

Passing on 

And then my father passed away on January 31st. 

Passing.  What a word.  A polite way of saying that a loved one is now deceased without having to mouth the unpleasant words--"my father died last week" which sounds so abrupt almost impolite, indeed disrespectful.  

And one thing a medical education quickly teaches the new student is to respect life and death.

My father, Jack Collier, in the Navy in WWII.
My father was a corpsman in the U.S. Navy during WWII, which he entered at the tender age of 17.  When he returned he finished his college education at Morehead State Teacher's College, now Morehead State University.  He could have easily pursued a medical degree--his father was a doctor in a small mining community in Kentucky and he tried to persuade his only child to go to medical school in his footsteps.  But my father refused and instead got his PhD in Biology at Chapel Hill and went on to do basic research in embryology and development.

I was an only child of two intellectual parents.  My father never allowed or wanted me to call him "Dad."
He despised the words "mom" and "dad."  Instead, I always called him Jack.  My friends thought this odd.  I think his caregivers at the nursing home, where he spent his last years, thought this strange also.  But you accept what you grow up with.

Passing.  A new ending, and a new beginning.

We pass to another side.  We pass to a new day or a new phase or era in our life.
But in my personal life the passing of both my parents and grandmother all in the last year and a half has brought a closure to many aspects of my life.  There are no more available answers to questions about things in my past, events, objects, trips and so much more. Factual access to personal history is gone.
Jack holding me in a Cape Cod snowstorm.
Each time I return home, from Buffalo, my parents passing takes on an added meaning with a slightly different nuance.

What pieces of their past and my history will I discover and have to disassemble this time?  And how do I continue to integrate this into my new life as a full time student?

Going forward, bringing the parts of the past that matter with us into our future -- that must be passing.