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An Unresolved Choice

I am told that blogging is supposed to be somewhat therapeutic. So, I figured I'd give it a shot.

One of my best friends in the world passed away last weekend: my grandfather. I probably spent more time with my grandpa, Peep as we called him, than most members of my family. I saw him over the Thanksgiving holidays, just before my last post, and although he looked sick, I did not realize he was as sick as he was. After all, most hospital patients look sick; that’s why they are there.

I have actually been feeling quite conflicted lately. My reason? Block exams began this week: Micro on Monday, Pathology and Internal Medicine on Wednesday, and Pharmacology on Friday. Next week we have a physical exam test and the Micro board exam.

The funeral services were held yesterday in Dallas. I live in Lubbock, and we are taking exams.

My issue is this: I did not attend the funeral and have been at odds with myself over my decision. I talked to many members of my family over the days leading up to the funeral services and they encouraged me not to attend. I heard story after story about family members who missed the funeral of a grandfather, grandmother, or other relative. They assured me no one would think badly about me if I could not make it. In fact, I was not expected to attend. So I didn’t.

I was told that seeing him alive and spending the countless hours with him when he was healthy were far more important than attending his funeral, which is for the family, anyway.

The problem is, I could have moved my exams to attend the funeral. I could have spoken to my student affairs office and asked what my options were. But I knew the options: move the exams to a later date (next week) and go to the funeral, or keep the exams the same and do not attend. I did not move my exams, and in fact, I took 2 exams just yesterday.

My family even asked my grandfather’s physician, Should Anthony move his medical school exams around and attend the funeral? His reply: Absolutely not. Tell him to stay there. They passed the message on and I did just that.

However, I am now concerned that I just followed orders. I feel like I should have been there. I could have hopped on a plane and been gone for about a day, just in time to start studying again. But I didn’t. And I don’t know why.

I think to myself, Would I want my relatives to miss exams and finals just to come to my funeral? I absolutely think not. But that doesn’t help much.

I have never put too much weight on grades, and have always done well, so why were these exams so important that I couldn’t (possibly) sacrifice a few points to attend my grandpa’s funeral? I don’t know the answer to that. I just know I didn’t go, and I feel strange. Not guilty -- I know what my grandpa would have said (don’t come) –- just strange. Like I sold out.

I guess my point is that I don’t know what I should have done. Did I make the right decision? Did I subconsciously offend my family? Would I do it again?

I don’t know. I just feel strange and needed to be therapeutic for a while.

Love you Peep, miss you. Tell my other relatives up there I said hello. Thanks for everything.

December 8, 2005 | Permalink


Forgive the therapy if it's off course. I've been there though, so...

I think you are feeling conflicted because you think that not moving your exams showed that you are more concerned about med school than about your grandfather. But your relatives were trying to tell you that they know your grandfather is more important; however, since he's gone, med school is more important than a funeral.

You saw your grandfather in the hospital. Now that might have been worth moving your exams for, if necessary. A funeral shows some honor for the person gone, obviously, (or we wouldn't care how many came, like in Death of a Salesman) but not as much as actually being there for that person.

A funeral is for the people left behind. Kind of like your blog entry.

I'm sorry he's gone. I know he'll leave a hole in your life. And I can't imagine trying to study with him gone.

Posted by: Suzi | Dec 8, 2005 11:10:32 AM

Anthony, forgive yourself, speak to your Grandfather often because he is all around you now, and enjoy school. Funerals are indeed for the living. Some say a funeral's purpose is to bring closure to those left behind. My thought is that all too often they are a competition to see how many people will show up, as if that is the way to measure ones worth! Your Grandfather took with him the memories of the time you spent together and the love you shared. I doubt that he was counting heads at his funeral....
I believe that all things happen for a reason, and that loved ones who have passed help to guide us from the other side. You are wondering why you made this decision, why you didn't move your exams even though you knew that was an option, and why you don't feel guilty really, just "strange". Do you feel as if you were operating on auto-pilot, almost as if someone else was making those choices? I don't know your beliefs or religion, but consider that your Grandfather may have been guiding you in your choices and you took the right path.

Posted by: Runs with Horses | Dec 8, 2005 11:57:10 AM


You showed honor to your grandfather while he was alive; I have no doubt that he was extemely proud of you!

He knew, and still does, how much you love him.

Attending the funeral is something you definitely wanted to do, but there are reasons why it was prudent not to do so, not the least of which is it would have added to your stress (moving finals, traveling last minute)while grieving for your grandfather and trying to study for finals.

When he was alive, your grandfather was your priority. Now that he is gone, you need to make sure that you take care of yourself as you go through this difficult period of grieving.

Posted by: Kim | Dec 8, 2005 1:28:16 PM

I can understand why you feel so conflicted about not having been able to attend your grandfather's funeral. It's quite unfortunate, but that's simply the life of any medical student. We have to sacrifice some things in our personal lives so we can grow in our professional lives. I have a lot of classmates who are married and have kids and they're always at a loss on how they can spend more time with their family and be able to study at the same time. I have one friend who worries that her son doesn't remember her much because they don't get to see each other often and her son is always with his nanny.
Ultimately, it's just a matter of learning how to balance -- sometimes family comes first, the other times our studies take priority. But in the end, we still think that all the hard work and sacrifices are worth it.
Good luck to all of us.

Posted by: Tina | Dec 9, 2005 5:42:40 PM

Hey anthony,

I know how you feel - and I'm not going to try and convince you you did the right thing or not (you obviously know in your heart) but what I can say is learn from it.

When my grandmother died and I didn't fly north to see her, I thought it was the right choice at the time. Looking back I wished I could have gone - but rather than getting too torn up about it there are two reasurring factors;
1) At the time, I did what I thought was the best thing to do in the given situation with all the info I had - I really can't look back and think that if I was in the same situation I would have done something different (I could have, but probably wouldn't have)
2) You have been given a valuable chance to learn something - you know what it feels like to miss out on these things, and hopefully you will act differently next time. Next time might be your sisters wedding, your brothers final baseball game, your dad's 60th or whatever. There are some things which are worth moving exams for and some things which aren't - for the things that are - just do it!

Far too often, Doctors hold their medical training and careers above everything else that is important to them, at our own loss - and at the loss of our patients.

The most important lessons we learn are outside the class room. Perhaps this was the last thing your grandfather will teach you - so learn from it!

All the best for the upcoming holidays.

Posted by: liz | Dec 12, 2005 2:00:20 PM

so tell me how to blog or what ever it is i never heard of it before.
if it is that theraputic i would like to try.

Posted by: john hayes | Dec 13, 2005 1:11:29 PM

I am an older (and I hope wiser) medical student. I made the decision opposite of you; my father died, I postponed exams and canceled representing my school at a conference and am glad I did so. I had no conflicted feeling.

When we are on wards and you see the people who are there alone and have no family watching or visiting, is it because everyone and their jobs have become so self important?

People in medicine are great offenders in this way. We take care of the people who present us with insurance cards and cash, but so often neglect those in our lives.

Sure, as others mention, a funeral is for those left behind...your family, your parents, your siblings.

I don't wish this to sound cruel, but it is a time to re-evaluate if this is just the beginning of a series of similar behaviors that will naturally take over your life.

Good luck.

Posted by: Cyndi | Dec 14, 2005 10:23:03 PM

Hey Anthony,

My condolences go out to you...I understand your struggle within yourself, the feeling sucks! You need to know that the time you had with your grandfather was filled with the very essence of who the both of you were all-around. You both invested in your time together and now he is gone and in a better place. A part og him still lives within you and everyday, you carry-on that part of him with you. Make him proud and continue to live, love, and prosper. Every grandparent has made sacrifices in their lives to afford us the opportunities to experience a better life. It is our responsibility to them, as grandchildren, role-models to other siblings and younger relatives to be an example, and accomplish the goals we have set for ourselves. You made a decision and what you're feeling is that sense of need to mourn for your grandpa, and that's absolutely normal. When you were involved in your intense study for upcoming exams and such, you didn't have the excess time to afford yourself this time. In essence, that process still needs to be dealt with, so take this time to think, ponder, and revel in knowing a great man. You don't need a funeral to honor an amazing person, but you do need to find a sense of peace within yourself to live without this person on earth. Good Luck!

Posted by: Suzanne | Dec 15, 2005 12:35:19 PM

hey cousin, its interesting to read your article about peeps. i was wondering how you felt about not coming and how you made that decision. you know and i know that peeps would have wanted you to stay and finish strong on your finals. you know how proud he was of you for going to medical school. yes it would have been nice to have you there, but peeps was watching over you while you took your exams and rooting for you i'm sure. dont feel guilty or strange. it was a tough decision i'm sure. but its over with now. when you graduate from medical school, peepaw will watch from above and love it. i hope you really are ok with this, peeps would be so mad now if you dwelled on this too long and started to struggle in med school. so just keep doing your best like you always do and keep making peeps proud and when you get to heaven you can tell peeps how awesome being a doctor was and how much you love him, even though he already knows that and not coming to his funeral would never change that! Leslie

Posted by: Leslie | Dec 28, 2005 6:13:22 PM

I know how you are feeling. I am missing my stepfathers funeral tomorrow and feel horrible about it. I feel horrible not because he would be upset that I am not there but because I am forever worried about what others are thinking (my family/friends) for not showing up. Like you, my family, encouraged me to do what I felt was right, but now (the night before the service) I feel like I am missing out as I am not with my family. I am just asking God to wrap his arms around me and make it all right. I hope he can make it alright for you too! Onelove

Posted by: Nicole | Sep 19, 2006 8:53:18 PM

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