No man is an Iland, intire of it selfe; every man is a peece of the Continent, a part of the maine; if a Clod bee washed away by the Sea, Europe is the lesse, as well as if a Promontorie were, as well as if a Mannor of thy friends or of thine owne were; any mans death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankinde; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee. – John Donne
I work in a hospital which sounds a lovely tinkly bell whenever a baby is born. Strangely, every nurse on the unit, upon hearing the joyful sound will exclaim: “A Baby!”. One day, one of us remarked that there was no such ritual performed when a patient passed away on our unit. I added, “you mean like a huge GONGGGGG!????”. This, of course elicited laughter and a series of amended suggestions such as the buzzer when some performer did poorly on the X-Factor. It basically ended with most of us heading back to work shaking our heads wondering what kind of a world it would be if we did such a thing. It would be unprofessional (if not tacky) so of course it will never be a thing, but the brief exploration of the subject made me recall John Donne’s poem (one of my favorite) and the imagery of one huge, solemnly ringing, bell. It begged the question: Why we don’t announce the passing of one of our patients in a more public and celebratory manner? A question which led me, in part, to the creation of this blog, and to the goal of exploring the subject of death and our handling of it in these modern times. It seems that we have a lopsided view of life that ignores the fundamental and final truth. We ALL die. So why do we have such a hard time accepting or even acknowledging it? Time to ask not for whom the bell tolls….it tolls for us all.