Naomi Rosenberg's Op-Ed in the Sunday New York Times is the best piece of writing I have had the painful pleasure to read in a long time. The title is How to Tell a Mother her Child Is Dead. Warning: this is not an easy piece to read.
Read it. Read the whole thing. Read it again. There is no excerpt I can offer.
Why is it so good? She does not clear her throat. She does not introduce the subject -- the title did that. She dives right in: "First you get your coat." She uses short, declarative, active sentences. The absence of contractions is powerful.
She does not beat us over the head with the obvious, or fill it with policy-blather. She reminds us of the daily tragedy in many cities, like my hometown of Chicago, that we must no longer ignore.
She reminds us of the deep humanity of doctors who pick up the pieces. The emergency room doctor who took care my mother could have been Dr. Rosenberg, and I will forever be thankful for her consideration. "You use the mother’s name and you use her child’s name." Yes. Too often in our many doctor visits raising four children, someone addressed us as "Mom" and "Dad." We're not dumb. We know that means you can't bother to look down at the sheet in front of you to read and pretend to know who we are.
She reminds us to treat people in awful circumstances with the same humanity and respect as she treats her patients, not as numbers, abstractions, easy categories or talking points for longstanding policy arguments.
Had she said any of that, it would have been much weaker. She didn't need to say it. In all likelihood, neither do I.
Let us remember Dr. Rosenberg and her colleagues this labor day, as they will be at that painful work while we barbecue.