Turning Tragedy into Comedy


Turning Tragedy into Comedy

Bearing All the Reality Life Has to Offer

By Frank Pittman

November/December 1995


A YOUNG MAN NAMED JEFF, who was dying from cancer that had metastasized to his things, was a patient of mine 30 years ago. His family cried and prayed over him and pretended he would recover, though they knew he knew better. I was initially called in to relieve Jeff's pain through hypnosis. That worked fine, but he was still lying in bed out of breath, bored, angry and resentful of the fact that his life was being cut short. He demanded to know why God was punishing him in this way. His family had offered him the Book of Job, but it proved to be no help Jeff was left wondering why God went out of his way to torment innocent people.

As Jeff and I talked about how he could use his last few weeks, the idea came up of reading a great novel about life. Jeff had been an athlete with little patience for school and he had never read a book. He chose War and Peace, the longest novel we could find, and dedicated himself to reading it, determined that he would live until he had finished it. He was a slow reader, and he lived weeks longer than anyone thought possible. He refused all pain medicine that might cloud his brain, and each day we discussed what he had read and learned about life.

Jeff's favorite scene was the one of Nicholas unhorsed and knocked out on the battlefield, coming to and noticing the cloud formations and then the cloud of dust on the horizon. As he realizes that the dust was being kicked up by French soldiers on horseback coming to kill him,…

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