Medicine · mourning


Herb was a great painter, poet, and reader. He left us all a remarkable legacy.


To those of you who may not know, Herb passed away on January 13 from Covid. It is a mystery how he contracted it as we were essentially in voluntary quarantine. He never left our apartment door without a mask and only went to the pharmacy, a little market, and the post office, all across from our back door. He was sick on Christmas Day but we were sure it was the flu and so were not alarmed. But on New Years Eve he was so sick we called EMS and he tested positive for Covid at the hospital. They said he was on minimal oxygen and on the right track, but on the 13th, the doctor called and said he might not make it through the night. He died at 6:30 p.m.

What the Nurse Said

Herb was fortunate to be on a Covid floor where the nurses were unbelievably kind. They loved Herb and he loved them. We all were tested and I was the only one of the family who tested positive. I was cared for by second daughter Sarah in spite of risk to herself. Fortunately I had a mild case. Sarah was allowed to visit Herb for two hours every day. He told her every day as he had told me before he went to the hospital that he wanted us all to leave New York and go to Florida where Sarah and Steven had found a business to buy that made use of their talents, the New York theatre being dead at least for a long time. I was allowed to visit Herb the day he died and I want to share with you what his favorite nurse told us. These are her exact words: “The best way to protect yourself from Covid is to never touch your eye with your naked finger. Always use a tissue.” She said it with such force and conviction that I think it is worth passing on.

First daughter Elly flew from Oregon to share the driving and we arrived in Florida on March 9. It has been four months since Herb died and I feel up to resuming the ordinary activities of my life. So tomorrow I’ll be back with a regular blog post.

mourning · Poetry

The Last Word on Mourning

Spring and Fall: To a Young Child

Gerard Manley Hopkins

Margaret, are you grieving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leaves, like the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
Ah! as the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
By and by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
And yet you wíll weep and know why.
Now no matter, child, the name:
Sorrow’s springs are the same.
Nor mouth had, nor mind, expressed
What heart heard of, ghost guessed
It is the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.