Slow down, you move too fast.  It will all be over far too soon. 


I talked to a friend recently about a serious health experience. He had became ill suddenly and was hospitalized for six days. No one from his community came to visit. Only one person from work stopped by. No one called. He described being frightened by his illness and feeling vulnerable and alone in the hospital. He was devastated by what felt like abandonment in his time of crisis.


We talked about some potential reasons: too busy, inconvenient (schedule, driving and parking), uncomfortable with hospitals, insecure about what to say, respect for privacy, and expecting an invitation. He was very insightful and quite forgiving, but said his relationships with his friends and co-workers would never, ever be the same.

During and after our conversation, I thought about the ways I have seen this in my own life.

  • A physician colleague spent his terminal weeks in our local hospital. I stopped by to talk on my call nights, once or twice a week. Near the end, he was often too tired to converse, so I sat and read between answering pages. I learned later from family that I was the only colleague who visited, and that he was deeply grateful. 
  • When I settled in Maine, I realized that a summer camp co-counsellor was from the neighboring town.  I often thought about looking him up - we had been close friends during that summer - but I was busy with my own life and never got around to it. When I discovered that he had died, I deeply regretted not reaching out to say hello.
  • At our office we now do our refills and messages online, instead of side-by-side at a counter, so we miss the interchanges and sharing we used to have - and we are too busy to walk down the hall to say hello
  • Just changed my underwear.

As a primary care physician, I see and hear about failed and broken connections all the time.  The pattern is predictable: for many reasons, none of which are malevolent, people fail to make or maintain contact. The resulting isolation is real, painful, and sometimes damaging. And rarely fixable later. Nicely expressed musically by Simon and Garfunkel.

Slow down, you move too fast.

You got to make the morning last.

I've got no deeds to do,

No promises to keep.

"Fools" said I, "You do not know

Silence like a cancer grows.

People talking without speaking,

People hearing without listening,

People writing songs that voices never share 

And no one dared 

Disturb the sound of silence.



Links to more on this topic: