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Volume 1, Issue 2
Summer 2005:

Whole Again

Brian T. Maurer

Cell 2 Soul. 2005 Summer; 1(2):a18

It is only after we are broken that we can be made whole again.

We have only two guarantees in life: death and taxes. So the saying goes. Yet I would add another to this short list — in this life we are guaranteed to be broken.

To live is to suffer. An old Puerto Rican man told me that once. I had been attending his granddaughter at the inner-city pediatric clinic where I worked after completing my residency training. The little girl's mother had brought her in with high fever and no discernible focus of infection. A urinalysis showed white blood cells and bacteria too numerous to count, indications of pyelonephritis1.

We treated the child with intravenous antibiotics; a subsequent study of her urinary tract showed grade IV bilateral hydronephrosis2. The grandfather listened as I explained the necessity for the subsequent surgical procedure to the little girl's mother. She had tears on her cheeks. The grandfather put his large hand over his daughter-in-law's shoulder, and uttered these words: Hay que sufrir en la vida. To live is to suffer.

His words echoed inside my head. Almost without thinking, I answered in the affirmative: "Sí, es cierto." But I was only thirty-one years old at the time. What did I know of such things back then?

I will turn fifty-two this year. Since that brief encounter twenty years ago I have witnessed much suffering in the lives of others, and I have suffered a bit in my own.

I have survived several surgeries for kidney stones and a testicular mass; I have borne the betrayal of a few false friends, and fended off an affront from one charlatan in a business deal; I have had my heart broken repeatedly by those I care about most in my life. And I write this knowing that I am by no means unique in any of these circumstances.

What I refuse to do is wallow in self-pity. I have learned that, however bad the circumstances may seem at the time, things are bound to turn around — if not on the outside, then certainly from within. Resentment is a killer of the soul, and the only way to deal with it effectively is through a willingness to forgive.

In his novel "A Farewell To Arms", Hemingway writes: "The world breaks every one and afterward many are strong at the broken places." You have to be broken first in order to heal. But it is in the process of healing that we are made strong at the broken places — and whole again.


1 Infection of the kidney

2 Dilation of the urinary collecting system.

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