It’s been almost exactly six months since Sue died. Today Mariel told me about a local man who had been re-arrested last week (after jumping bail)….and I was reminded of Sue’s very last words to me:   “He pled guilty, and you are excused! Isn’t that wonderful!!?” She was referring to a that same man who was originally arrested when he tried to fill a narcotics prescription written for his cancer-victim wife….who had been dead for a year….The wife had been my patient, so I was subpoenaed to testify against him.  On the day of the trial, Sue called to tell me about the guilty plea, and that I was thus excused from the trial.  Two days later, Sue was dead at home, a victim of her own cancer.

Though I think of her often, and miss her always, in the last few days there have suddenly been many more reminders.  Several patients this week suddenly asked “Where is Sue?” and are shocked to learn she died. One visiting doctor, who does a clinic in our office once a month asked me that question last week, and I was amazed to realize that her loss, which is so acute for me, was just noted by him.

Sue collected pigs, and last year I found a Christmas ornament for her: a pig with a rooster standing on his back. I found it very funny: my nickname is Hroost, and it seemed a fitting gift-as her boss I was always “on her back.”  The ornament, which was to be her Christmas gift this year,  is now hanging on the entry to my den, and this week it hit my face as I passed by it.

Though I think I do a good job at work,  and I’m generally a nice (mostly….) person, I am often guilt-ridden about a cross word I might have said, or a hurt I may have caused, or a diagnosis I may have missed, and I tend to mentally beat myself up about such things-and especially so in the last month.  I teared up today when Mariel told me about the re-arrest, and I recalled again Sue’s last words: “You are excused. Isn’t that wonderful!”

Thanks, Sue.  I needed that.