July 2022

August More Voices: Coping

Dear Pulse readers,

For years my family has attended religious services at a Unitarian Universalist congregation. In this congregation, our minister gets Sunday off every few weeks, and the service is led by a different group of congregants. Everyone gets to participate.

The themes of these congregant-led services often involve coping. They might be summed up as: “What keeps me going?”

Mouth Piece

When I was five years old, more than sixty years ago, I was playing on the top rung of a swimming-pool ladder near our home in what was then Salisbury, Rhodesia (now Harare, Zimbabwe). I lost my footing.

Being very thin, I slipped between the pool ladder and the wall and knocked my chin hard as I fell. Just as in the film Jaws, the blue water (acrid with pool chemicals) bloomed red.


As I examined the strength in my patient’s legs, I noticed some scar-like indentations on his right thigh. Pausing, I asked Rob how he’d gotten them. “I got shot,” he responded

I nodded calmly, while I summoned up Rob’s medical history. I recalled that he was on medications for PTSD. As my mind connected these dots, I asked, “What happened?”

Facing Grief

As a teenager, I never thought much about accidents. Cuts and bruises are part of growing up in a small, midwestern town. However, when someone you love is in a serious accident, your world changes, and your mind becomes engulfed in anxiety. 

Be Mother

One of my regular acupuncture patients, he arrives looking pale, not his usual cheery self. I try to make a joke, but he remains empty-faced. Something’s clearly wrong.

“Let’s sit down,” I say. “What happened?”

“My mom died,” he says. I feel my heart sink.

Evolution of My Views on Abortion

There was a time when I viewed abortion as permissible only in very specific situations. That was the view I held during my years of medical school.

Then came residency training. Our program had a clinic where we offered abortions. I was not mandated to perform the procedure, but I was expected to become competent in educating my patients, if needed, regarding abortions and provide them with resources for whatever their decision may be. I was not prepared for how conflicted I would feel about doing this.

Just in Time

I still remember the thrill when the Roe v. Wade decision was issued. In grad school, a friend had tried to abort with a coat hanger when her boyfriend dumped her and offered no support. I was always careful about contraception but knew a number of women who became pregnant even using it. I never expected to need an abortion but was grateful once I had that option.

A Heart to Heart

One unusually wintery April morning, when I was fifteen, my maternal grandfather (“Nanabhai” to me) passed away.

The phone call came before my sister and I left for school. My father solemnly handed the phone to my mother, who’d been expecting the call, but not this soon. From my seat at the kitchen counter, I watched her expression morph from shock to disbelief to grief. Without hearing a word, I knew what had happened.

Almost Normal

His steps are wobbly. Our children hold their father’s hands to steady him as they move through the sand toward the ocean. I remain far back on the shore, shading my eyes to make out the three of them as they stand in the shallow water.

I am thinking that he looks like a ten-year-old child from this distance. My sight turns blurry, a combination of sun, sand and sorrow.

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