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A wonderful life


Appreciation of family and friends
Sherwin Nuland Surgeon
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I live in the love of my four children and my wife. When I say love, I mean it's the love I feel for them, it's the love they feel for me, and as recently as mid-December, we had a huge party.

We invited – get this – 140 people. It was my 80th birthday and Sarah's not-quite 63rd. She was going to be 63, and on the invitation, we said, this is a party to thank all of the friends who stuck with us through our difficult time.

We had also had a difficult time, because my younger daughter was born with hydrocephalus, and she had had a recurrence about two years before I became depressed, and, you know the warmth of so many people and the goodness of so many people carried us through those two episodes.

So, we invited everybody that we thought were good friends of ours, who had been with us. Even good friends of ours who lived in faraway places, and so many people came. We had a magnificent time. The kids put on a show, the four kids, in which they sang songs. I read a ridiculous poem that I wrote. You know, I write poetry that's so bad it's good. You know, it's funny. It's full of puns and references and so on. Sarah gave a slideshow of our family. And among the invitees were this community from our congregation, about 20 of them. And they had written a song… and sang it for us. It was a glorious, glorious evening, and it was as though… and I said it, in my poem, I began it this way and ended it this way: this is to thank all of you for what you've done for us. Yes. Yes.

And so, it had hit me again, and it changed my value system. That's the end of my depression story.

Sherwin Nuland (1930-2014) was an American surgeon and author who taught bioethics, the history of medicine, and medicine at the Yale University School of Medicine. He wrote the book How We Die which made The New York Times bestseller list and won the National Book Award. He also wrote about his own painful coming of age as a son of immigrants in Lost in America: A Journey with My Father. He used to write for The New Yorker, The New York Times, Time, and the New York Review of Books.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is a London-based television producer and director who has made a number of documentary films for BBC TV, Channel 4 and PBS.

Tags: Sarah Peterson

Duration: 2 minutes, 27 seconds

Date story recorded: January 2011

Date story went live: 04 November 2011