Random Thoughts from a Restless Mind

Dr. Darrell White's Personal Blog

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Wearing a Bow Tie to Honor a Friend: Sunday musings…4/4/2021

Tomorrow I will wear a bow tie to work for the first time in more than a year. Actually, it will be the first time I wear a bow tie outside of my house since mid-March 2020. When my world got locked down by fiat from multiple aboves, all of the doctors in my practice transitioned to scrubs for the office. You know, so that we could launder them every night. One of my docs went so far as stripping down in the entryway to their home and showering before changing into civvies. No bow tie meant I could launder everything I wore to the office.

Since med school I have pretty much always worn a bow tie to work. Certainly since I began practice. What started out as convenience (a bow tie doesn’t hang down into all of the yucky stuff you encounter in a hospital) turned into a professional signature (Dr. Bow Tie). Not wearing a bow tie was universally noticed. Greeting patients prior to surgery in scrubs never failed to elicit a “where’s the bow tie, Doc?” The only time I wore what my kids called a “grown up tie” was for wakes and funerals. Bow ties sometimes denote a sense of whimsy and fun; I never wanted anyone to feel I wasn’t being properly respectful.

Last week I lost a colleague from work, someone with whom I worked side by side for the better part of 25 years. Tomorrow, at their funeral, I will wear a bow tie.

That my colleague died suddenly and alone makes my loss, our loss, so much more painful. Separated from each other for 9 or 10 weeks our work family actually bonded. Reached out to one another. Cared for one another. I recorded a video on the effects of the entire COVID experience on our small private practice in early March, and one of the marvels was that each and every person who worked together in our little place came back to continue the journey. Every. Single. One. Other than being able to stay open that fact, that we all came back to pick up where we’d been stopped, was the most amazing, wonderful part of an otherwise very hard year.

That’s what I will be thinking about on my way to the funeral tomorrow. We’d made it. Or at least I thought we’d all made it. Looking back my colleague had started to change a few months ago. A little less bounce in the walk. Slower to laugh. More time spent alone when the option to be together was there. Still, they’d always been very private. We knew something was wrong. We gave space because space was requested whenever we asked if we could help. Safe, we thought, in the knowledge that our colleague had always bounced back from setbacks large or small.

Indeed, they joked with me that the bow tie needed to make a return.

I find myself thinking about my colleague, my friend of 25 years, at odd moments. My efforts to put them in a little closet, a tiny shrine somewhere in my mind, perhaps, where I can visit when I’m strong enough…well…that’s been a miserable failure. I know that there was nothing that I, or anyone, could do for our friend. There was more pain than they thought possible. Intellectually, I know that we were all powerless. Still, dark, sorrowful tears tinged with the bitterness of “why?” and “if only” come without warning, unbidden, staining my cheeks on their way to the ground.

Tomorrow, to honor my friend, so that they will recognize me as they’d known me these many, many years, I will wear a bow tie in public for the first time in over a year. Just in case they are watching from above, to make sure they know I’m there, I will wear a bow tie to a funeral for the first time ever. There will be many of my work family there. We are all feeling the same. There’s an ache, a hole where our friend should be. Where our friend once stood so stolid, so supportive and loving, we will have to find the strength to make our friend proud of us as we hold each other up. As they once did for us. I must remember to bring tissues for everyone. For myself. That will be very helpful.

When you wear a bow tie there is nothing there to catch the tears.

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