I Wonder

There are now 3 eggs in the robins’ nest. I saw a big turkey vulture soaring close by. I wonder if that’s what got the House Finch chicks. The bird that made a noise with it’s wings that was as loud as a big sheet flapping on a line in the wind, and looked too big to be a crow or even a raven–I wonder.

I wonder if I somehow was partly to blame for the murder of the baby birds, always messing around the tree. Still, I take pictures–and maybe draw death nearer.

And that leads to other strange thoughts. It’s odd that the nearer I get to retirement, the more I think about my life way before I ever even thought about medical school.


I remember the first time I ever heard about death was when I was in kindergarten. My mother woke me up early one morning to tell me that Steven, one of my schoolmates, was killed the evening before. He was playing around the railroad yard just a few blocks from our house. A train ran over him.

I remember my mother talking about it but I didn’t make any sense out of it. I was too young. I only wondered what it meant.


When I was a difficult teenager and made a conscious effort not to smile for pictures, I remember hitchhiking along a lonely highway in a bad rainstorm. I was glad when the man pulled over. I was not glad when he began to rub the back of my neck and asked, “How about a ride for trade?” I was not too young to know what he meant. When I said, “Let me out,” he did. I was too young to know that was miraculous.

I sometimes catch myself wondering if my life has been a grand illusion since then, only to protect my fragile soul from knowing the true horror. Maybe the driver really didn’t let me out. Why should I wonder that?


I remember a man who taught me how to do the work of a land surveyor. I looked up to him. He committed suicide by shooting himself in the chest over a failed relationship. I couldn’t help wondering why.

Of course, death visited me several times after I became a physician. They sometimes led to decisions I would rather I had not made about the direction of my career. I always wonder.

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