I’ve Been Thinking: New Year’s Resolution

January 10, 2011 | In: I've Been Thinking

I’d been thinking New Year’s resolutions were for the birds. Why is December 31 a more compelling reason for decision making than, say, April 14 or July 11? But this January 1 begged for some rethinking.

So, the high-definition television is glaring and blaring. But I’m not really watching the Rose Bowl. It’s just background noise this year. Not because my team’s not slugging it out but because last night I took a blow to the head when I realized I really am saying goodbye to my brother—not for the year but for good.

A few weeks ago, neurosurgeons did their best. Eight hours of cutting removed most of the glioblastoma in Ed’s head, but the 20 percent left behind remains the most aggressive cancer found in the brain. Yesterday’s visit drove home the reality that my days with him are numbered, which seemed to align with the doctors’ estimates of weeks vs. months.

Today, the Beatle’s Yesterday rings in my mind as clearly as when we played it on our car radios in 1965, a year after Ed’s high school graduation—a year before mine.

Suddenly, my brother’s not half the man he used to be. My interesting, insightful, articulate sibling’s head is scrambled. He can’t remember who he’s with, where he’s at, or how things work. Though he’s more gentle and affectionate than ever, he’s washed his cell phone in the kitchen sink, mentioned serving in Nam though he’s never been to Southeast Asia nor worn a uniform. And, he’s been mentioning things to me about “his brother.” I am his only brother. There’s a shadow hanging over me.

Competing for mindshare is another 1965 hit by the other mopheads. The Byrds’ Turn! Turn! Turn! echoes ancient wisdom Pete Seager borrowed from Israel’s Koheleth. I located the text tonight near the center of the Gideon Bible from my hotel room’s nightstand:

    There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under heaven:

    a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
    a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
    a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,
    a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
    a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,
    a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,
    a time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace.

    Ecclesiastes 3, New International Version, 2010

In more ways than I’ll mention, these words brought resolution. Though the shadow yet hovers over my heart, the lens of this text is clarifying thoughts in my otherwise fuzzy head. The display in my brain packs more pixels per square inch than ever.

Feeling the brevity of life, I see that each day we have together is a time to embrace, a time to laugh, a time for love.

And pondering that there really is a time to die also nudges me toward another kind of resolution—the resolution of conflicts. Today is the time to mend fences, to pursue peace, to seek and grant forgiveness.

Finally, though my brother’s cancer is untreatable, I find myself re-resolving to continue helping hospitals gather stones and build better point-of-care systems for preventing unnecessary harm and promoting healing for other people’s brothers.

Discovering that the Turn! Turn! Turn! text was in the middle of the Bible sparked my curiosity to locate the very center line of the book. Turns out it’s a bit to the left in the Psalms: “Forget none of God’s benefits.” I assume “none” would include benefits past, present, and future. I’m counting my blessings.

    Life, lovely while it lasts, is soon over.
    Life as we know it, precious and beautiful, ends.
    The body is put back in the same ground it came from.
    The spirit returns to God, who first breathed it. Ecclesiastes 12:6-7

Yesterday all these troubles seemed so far away. Now it looks as though they’re here to stay. But I don’t believe in yesterday. See you tomorrow, bro.

Mark Neuenschwander a.k.a. Noosh


Copyright 2011 The Neuenschwander Company

6 Responses to I’ve Been Thinking: New Year’s Resolution


Michael R McDaniel

January 14th, 2011 at 11:20 am

My thoughts and prayers are with you, your brother and your families as you go through this sad journey. In 1998 my father-in-law went through the same process as he battled, and lost, against his glioma.

And as I write this, my younger brother is fighting AML and will need a stem cell transplant, with my youngest brother and myself being his best chance for a donor. Better odds than some, but far from a certain outcome.


David Kaplan

January 14th, 2011 at 12:26 pm

Hey Mark:

Those of us who have the pleasure of knowing you personally know your passion and your value in moving forward the mission of medication safety in hospitals further than perhaps anyone else in the modern era. We also know your history as a man of the cloth. This blog post screams wisdom from both sides of your life. Your words are profound, as usual. Thanks for taking the time to share your insights and make us pause to focus on the truly important things in life.

Dave Kaplan
Group Publication Director
Pharmacy Practice News


Susan Carr

January 14th, 2011 at 12:54 pm

Mark, thank you for sharing your wisdom and love. I admire the way you find meaning for all of us in your brother’s difficult time. It’s a powerful reminder of what’s most important, as Dave says above. Best wishes to you and your family,

Patient Safety & Quality Healthcare


Lynda Amorim

January 14th, 2011 at 3:37 pm

Thank you for sharing – it gives us an opportunity to take stock of our own lives and consider how we can make a postive impact, not only with technology, but also with the simple things in life. As we journeyed down the same path with my mother just one year ago, the things most cherished by my mother and family were Compassion, Dignity and Respect.
Peace be with you, your brother and your family.


Barbara Olson

January 16th, 2011 at 12:57 pm

Mark, I recently heard a lovely piece about how much children can learn–and enjoy learning–through the wisdom of proverbs. Your piece is a reminder of the value proverbs bring to all of life’s lessons. I would argue that “peace at the last” is a worthy plan of care, and I think BCMA might still add value for people whose final days are spent in hospitals.

Finally, I thought I’d mention that children favor the saying, “The grass is always greener on the other side…..” I hope you and your brother continue to find meaning in your journey and hope from simple things in the days ahead.




October 10th, 2015 at 7:49 am

Thank you for your kind words. You did not provide an email or a link to your blog.

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