Dead Poets Society and Me

Easter 2022: Poets Corner Westminster Abbey

Gather ye Rose-buds while ye may,
Old Time is still a-flying:
And this same flower that smiles to day,
Tomorrow will be dying.

Robert Herrick

I’ve been quite ill. The sort of illness where you can’t get out of bed. Can’t hold a thought. Can’t read a page from a book.

I set a goal one day to sit up for 2 hours. During that time (full disclosure, mostly lying on the floor), I watched Dead Poets Society and scribbled down every poem reference about life, and impeding death.

To net my health saga: A self diagnosis of Covid while we were in Paris was wrong. Equally wrong was my long-haul Covid diagnosis when I kept ebbing.

I eventually recovered.

I eventually relapsed.

Once home, I saw a doctor. She drew blood. The next morning, she called. “Take your bloodwork and go to the emergency room. Your liver enzymes are extremely elevated.”

I went immediately.

There they drew more blood. Tested for all the flavors of hepatitis—plus one additional virus that can also make your liver wonky: Epstein Barr.


Diagnosis: Epstein Barr induced acute viral hepatitis.

It all makes sense now. The 10-hour-long deep and dreamless sleeps. The days of sheer exhaustion. I didn’t have Covid, I had mono. In keeping with the theme that I’m living my life in reverse, sixty-four-year-old me had had a teenage illness.

I’ve laid in bed several nights before and since my diagnosis and suspended all plans for future travel. Quite simply, I’ve wanted to wrap myself in cotton wool and stash my someday-healthy body safely in a cozy nest. No malaria. No brain-eating amoebas. No acute itises in any major organ.

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.

Henry David Thoreau

Then I reminded myself that I had recently visited a staid shortlist of places: the United States, France, death’s door.

No India. No Nepal. No Senegal.

Eventually, I returned to one undeniable truth: To stop living won’t stop dying.

As I chatted with the emergency room doctor about what I could expect (a slow recovery sprinkled with some crummy days), he reassured me. “People who present like you. Otherwise healthy. Fit. Do well with this.”

Oh bull, behold thy red flag. I’ve recommitted to being the best friend a liver ever had. I’m interviewing primary care physicians. Catching up on tests I’ve ignored. Heightening my health and fitness focus. Informing myself on how I’ll get care wherever, come-what-may.

And I’ve recommitted to a life well lived. To shed my cottonwool sheath as a butterfly sheds its chrysalis. To go forth.

The question, O me! so sad, recurring—What good amid these, O me, O life.

Answer. That you are here—that life exists and identity,

That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.

Walt Whitman

The other day Pat asked how I felt. I told him that I was beginning to imagine feeling well—flickers of health that would, for now, suffice. Today, for the first time in weeks, I walked the 1/2 mile to my coffee shop.

My powerful play, it appears, will go on. How invigorating to plot the verse I’ll one day contribute. To chart a course, not fearlessly, but in spite of my trepidations. Simply put, to seize the day.

I’m readying my sails.

O Captain! My Captain!

Categories: Ruminations

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21 replies

  1. Julie, we will pray for a full and speedy recovery. First and foremost, take care of YOU!!

  2. Good luck recovering fully, Julie. The world will still be there when you are ready to begin experiencing it again.

  3. What would be life without wild waves! Be well!

  4. Dang!!! You *are* in reverse! Hope you recover well and I am glad you have decided to live well, too!
    I had Mono twice as a teen — never knew it had a much more glamorous name — I would have enjoyed it more – not!
    Take care — do take your time….it is not to be fooled with!

  5. Dang! Take care – this is nothing to fool with. I had Mono twice as a teen — had I known it had a fancier name I would have worn it as a badge of honor! Seriously — hope you make steady progress in getting well!

  6. Jeepers Julie, I hope that by now you are rapidly increasing your path to full hearty wellness. It is often easy to self diagnose, I know, and just as easy to mis-diagnose. I am glad that you did get a specific result and are now on the wellness curve. as usual, you are an inspired writer and we just love your posts. Get fully well soon, hugs to you and Pat.Or should I say, abrazos y besos.

  7. Geez, Julie, at this rate you’ll soon be doing puberty part two!

  8. Julie,
    God’s speed I send to you as you recover. Marty and I wish you the very best! Get well soon!!

    I so enjoy reading your blog!!

  9. Feel better soon Julie….you have to get back to Ireland for more tea and chats!

  10. So sorry you’ve been sick, Julie! Glad your resolve is staying strong!

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