Cain and Abel, ContinuedThe case didn’t add up. Tom’s cardiac catheterization was unimpressive. This is a medical procedure during which the arteries of the heart are injected with dye, in order to determine whether there are blockages that might cause chest pain. Also, the pain itself didn’t necessarily fit the usual pattern of the pain that comes from the heart. So there I sat with the 68-year-old patient and his daughter, scratching my head. Having lots of experience in this type of situation, the next question was a natural.
“Tell me, Tom, how are things at home?” With a little more questioning and in less than a minute, both father and daughter were crying. It seems that Tom had become estranged from his other daughter. They hadn’t been on speaking terms in a long time, and every time the subject came up, Tom had chest pain, shortness of breath, or some other somatic manifestation. The case was now simple, though of course, not simple to fix. This was not a problem of the heart as much as it was a problem of the soul.
It always amazes me – in the course of my typical day, I see people with all sorts of health problems, job insecurity or financial worries. By far, the source of the most intense anguish for most people is discord within the family. Strife with loved ones seems to cause more stress than any other source. And as we all know, family issues go all the way back to Cain and Abel in the very beginning of the Bible.
An old story in Judaism involves a rabbi and his students. The subject is about repentance and reconciliation. “You must be sure to reconcile with others on the day before you die,” said the rabbi. “But Rabbi,” the students responded, “We can’t know the exact day on which we’re going to die.”
“Precisely,” said the rabbi.
If you have a comment or question about this blog entry, email Dr. Roffman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dr. Joel Roffman has spoken to many church, synagogue and support groups. His book, Coping with Adversity: Judaism’s response to illness and other life struggles is enjoyable, uplifting and informative. It is meant for people of all faiths and can be viewed at www.copingwithadversity.com. It is available at Barnes and Noble, Borders, and Amazon.com.