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A City United by Lorenzen Wright
last updated:
Wed, 9/15/2010 10:43 AM

The majority of my television watching occurs at work. Mind you; I don’t watch a lot of TV, so this means mostly that I catch snippets of shows while I’m making rounds, seeing patients. Nine out of ten rooms I enter have the TV on—sometimes blaring, sometimes silent, but always attendant. Even in rooms where patients are unconscious, the programming continues, falling on deafened ears and blinded eyes. It is as if patients, families, and the hospital staff can’t abide a silent space, as the contemplation of the uncertainty of mortality might slip in. So we fill the void with white noise—a requiem for the ill (and dying) composed by Oprah, Judge Judy, and the Kardashians.

On any given day, I’m bemused or annoyed, and occasionally entertained. Recently, I was transfixed.  In every room I entered, the television set was tuned to the same program. Black, white, Hispanic; young, old; marginally ill or approaching death—every patient and every family watched. Not the crowning of a new singing superstar; not the unraveling of yet another Gotham murder. Not even a new fishing season in the Bering Straight. Everyone was watching the funeral of a young black man, taken too early from us, by violent death.

I watched, too. I watched the seemingly endless line of well-wishers, mourners, and shell-shocked family members. I saw the ornate casket.  I tried to remember the flashing smile, the graceful athleticism, the seven-foot frame standing at the top of the key, hands raised almost to heaven to stop the entry pass in the zone defense. But all I could think about was how he must have looked at that last moment:  one hand on his cell phone, desperately calling for a help that would come a week too late, another outstretched toward the impossible task of stopping a hail of bullets.

Lorenzen Wright was one of us. Like Icarus, he slipped the bonds of earth for a sunward flight. We reveled in that trajectory, inspired by how talent and discipline could lift a man above poverty, violence, and want. When he fell, we fell too. United in disbelief and mourning, we all watched his eulogy. As in life, he united the city in his death.

One day, this city will be known for more than infant mortality, foreclosures, and capital crime. We will rally around urban renewal, biotech creativity, and spiritual rebirth. For now, though, we are united through the pride and exhilaration of sport. Rest well, our Icarus.  Men weren’t made to fly. But for a few fleeting moments, you made us all lift our eyes.

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Dr. Clay Jackson is the medical director for Methodist Hospice & Palliative Services team. For more information about Hospice & Palliative Care Services in Memphis, Tenn., call 901.516.1616 or 800.726.2559. All opinions expressed here are those of their authors and not of their employer. Information provided here is for medical education only. It is not intended as and does not substitute for medical advice.

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Methodist Healthcare is an integrated health care delivery system, dedicated to the art of healing through our faith-based commitment to minister to the whole person. 1211 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee 38104 • (901) 516-7000

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