I am reading a beautifully written book now, Edgar Sawtelle. The author has the sort of mastery of language that I love and can't read fast enough, but don't want to end. The protagonist of the story is a child born without the ability to speak and the dog who decides his purpose is to be the boys protector. I'm half way through it and it is the kind of book that I know I'll be sad to finish, but it has me thinking about the power of words. The ability of language spoken and unspoken to provide support or cause pain, to share emotions, to transcend time, to inspire or to belittle.
As a physician I have worked to become aware of the ambiguity of language and have trained myself to speak as precisely as possible. I work towards perfecting the skills of delivering bad news with compassion but strength, but still there are times when I know that the words that are about to come out of my mouth are going to change a family's life forever and cause them nightmares and inordinate suffering. Yesterday was such a day. I fight my own personality which is to spread cheer and not cause pain by trying to not say such things, but sometimes you must, and I firmly believe that it is worse to withhold the information. However, the aftereffects of delivering such news are rough to bear witness to. I only hope that we (my coworkers and team) can also use our language spoken and unspoken to support too.