Today was the memorial service for Dr. Miller. It took place in a synagogue on West End Avenue and it was absolutely packed, standing room only. I feel like everyone I'd ever met in my entire life was at this memorial, that's how many people came to pay their respect. The service was tremendously sad and hard for everyone, particularly tragic in that this was the loss of a young man, a husband and a father to young children, in the face of a horrible and unexpected death. How could we lose someone so loved, so needed? The senselessness and incredible waste of it all has me dull with shock. He was 46 years old, and he left us too soon.
In some ways, he was like a superhero. And I don't mean that in the ambiguous "that man was a hero" sense, because that word is so overused these days I'm not even really sure what it means anymore. I mean to say that he was like a larger than life character, a constant presence, a force. Say his name to any med student, and everyone can conjure up their own image of him, expressions, mannerisms and all. He even dressed the same way every day, it seemed. That same baggy blue denim shirt, those khaki pants, that maroon tie. It was like his uniform. I used to joke that he was like Charlie Brown, and that if you opened up his closet, you'd just see row after row of identical shirts and pants. Maybe it made it easier to get out the door in the morning, not to have to worry too much about what to wear.
His stories had a way of becoming our stories. It's like we adopted him into our family or something. He once told us a story from his med school days, when he was on call during his surgical rotation and looking a little worse for the wear. So much so that one of the patients that he'd been taking care of that week told him (this part of the story he relayed in an African accent), "Steve, you look like a bush man!" We laughed. And then, a week or two later, he told the story again. We laughed again. And then he told it again, exactly like the first time, with the same setup and punchline. And again. At this point, we were all looking at each other, like, "Did he forget that he told us this story already? Three times?" Yet, years later, I'm still using his story. So are other people. Just the other day, when I was looking a little rumpled, Joe looked and me and, without missing a beat, told me, "Steve, you look like a bush man!" And I laughed again.
As med students, we loved him because he was one of us. And we miss him now because we know how much he cared about us too. It's a tragic, senseless, inconceivable loss for all of us, and my heart goes out to his family and those who knew him best.
New on the photo project: Chinatown, part 2 of 2
Currently reading: An article in from last Thursday's New York Newsday about Dr. Miller.
Trying to finish "The Rule of Four" before Hawaii. Also going through the Clinical Case Simulations in preparation for the Boards. What would happen, I wonder, if you typed in something completely nonsensical, like "Stick monkeys up the patient's butt"? Would the computer explode?