I’ll never forget the day I lost my wife, twenty five years ago.
I had spent the day sightseeing with relatives visiting from out of town, and on the drive back felt my pager buzz. It was the office calling. I called back expecting a list of updates and to-do’s, and maybe a memo that needed my sign-off; instead, my assistant, voice shaking, told me that my wife Donna Lee had been in a terrible car crash, and that I needed to head straight to the hospital.
A nurse greeted me as I walked into the ER. Working my career in healthcare, including in Senior positions in the Federal Government, I’ve walked into countless hospitals before, usually addressed as Dr. Moritsugu, Sir, or, later in my career, Surgeon General; that day, I was just Ken.
She escorted me to a small, private room, offered me coffee, and tried to brace me for what I was about to hear. She was picking her words carefully, but it didn’t look good. Next came a trauma surgeon—they had stabilized her vital functions, but there had been severe head trauma—and then came the chaplain, unsummoned. I already knew. Finally, the neurosurgeon entered. Her heart was still beating, but she’d lost blood flow to the brain: Donna Lee, my wife, was dead.
By then our family had gathered, and the nurse escorted us to the trauma room. They had cleaned Donna Lee from her injuries and she looked so peaceful, as if she were just sleeping. But I knew better. Continue reading
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