Ash Wednesday

Another weekend is starting, tarnished somewhat by the relentless specter of disease that never takes a holiday, and demands that those of us who have chosen this battle be also willing to carry on the fight 24/7.  I’m fortunate in having two other doctors in my specialty sharing weekend work duties. We each take our own calls during the week, but this arrangement gives us the luxury of having to work only every third weekend. It could be a lot worse. It’s always better to be the doctor than to be the patient.


Southern California has a large Hispanic population, the bulk of who have come here from Mexico. Los Angeles is the second largest Spanish speaking city in North America, after Mexico City. Having lived and worked here as long as I have, I’ve grown to learn and appreciate the culture of our southern neighbor. Perhaps that’s the reason the following poem carries special meaning. Be well.




In the villages of central Mexico the poor

make belts of braided soft-drink tabs;

zucchini soup contains the stems

of flowers as well fruit.

In Mexico nothing is wasted, so

the darkest of their recipes for mole

calls for stale tortillas and the seeds

of ancho chilis burned to ash

and folded in. As if to guarantee

the taste of dust and ashes always

in one’s mouth. As if one needed

in Mexico, yet another reminder

of the presence of los muertos.


Ted McMahon



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18 Responses to Ash Wednesday

  1. Beth says:

    It is good that you only have to work every 3rd weekend.  Everyone needs some time away from their profession, especially a doctor I would think.  You showed much compassion when you said it is always better to be the doctor than the patient.  During the last few months of my husband\’s battle with lymphoma, his oncologist could have taken a lesson from you.  Maybe my husband and I were just worn out but his doctor came across to us as cold and unfeeling towards the end.

  2. Sarah says:

    Having worked in the medical arena myself, (just a low-runger) I know it can be hard to stay warm and compassionate at times, like one has to get steely at times just to survive all the pain the patients go through…taking it home can eat you up.  I hugely applaud your heart and spirit for staying strong and present.  Many blessings to you for your care, for your compassion, for your own life and longevity. 

  3. Barb says:

    I agree with Beth .. Jorge you seem to have such compassion and empathy something not all patients see all the time from doctors unfortunately. When I see cold physicians I often think of "Patch Adams" and how part of their training should be as a patient with a serious illness!
    I am a survivor of Hepatitis B which I got from a dirty needle in a doctors office.. sigh. Anyhow as it was one of the worst cases seen at the time, so no doubt  I was very sick. My saving grace was my favorite doctor Head of Internal Medicine who made sure that eleven specialists all went through him so as not to upset an already delicate balance of my illness. Over four months in hospital and a a year plus at home but I made it…He was my life line and in part between him and my stubbornness to not quit.. I am still here years later:)
    So you bet compassion and empathy are key and more important than many like to consider.
    I am so pleased to know your on that side, it is something not missed in your expressions…
    Try not to get too tired this weekend
    BE Well

  4. Gayle says:

    A sad and beautiful poem.  You fight the good fight and we are blessed to have you in this world.  Gayle

  5. Nina says:

    It is so important to take time OFF in any field where one works with people! If you don´t fill your own vessel then there will be nothing to give to others as well. I have to remind myself of this one when I forget that I can´t work 24/7 and that it´s impossible to get everything done anyway…and not to be such a perfectionist.
    Beautiful poem! Even though I must say that I have seen a lot of waste and dumping of plastics and cans down beautiful hillsides in Mexico…that I wish I could just forget about but they haunt me!

  6. barbara says:

    Your written thoughts, as always, have a deep underlying tone that I appreciate. I wish for you, cool winds and gentle rain during this hot, fiery summer.

  7. Holy says:

    Hey great news – that will be a nice bonus for your summer.  My daughter just watched Ratatouille again – I have no idea if I spelled it right – and she asked me all about Paris.  She sounded surprised to find out Paris was in France.  I said, ohmygosh…I guess we better start planning a Europe trip to edumacate you with some geography, my dear.
    Hope all is well with you…it takes a lot of guts to do what you do…(Teehee….I\’m sure you\’ve heard all the jokes).  At least you\’re not a proctologist like a buddy of his….we raz him all the time.

  8. Stephen Craig says:

    Jorge,  To me, the People have thoughts and dreams of ages past that are entwined in the Spirit that is within them.  God bless them, for the joy of life, the passion, the glory and grace is held sacred.  In a quiet space that touches all.  The ash is the spark.  The taste is the love and care of understanding.  Knowing and being in the Light.  You know.  Thank you, my friend,
    as ever be well,
    Stephen Craig Rowe
    Jorge, para mí, el pueblo tiene pensamientos y sueños de las edades pasadas que están entrelazados en el espíritu que está dentro de ellos.  Dios bendiga a ellos, de la alegría de la vida, la pasión, el Gloria y gracia es celebró sagrado.  En un espacio tranquilo afecta a todos.  La ceniza es la chispa.  El sabor es el amor y la atención de la comprensión.  Saber y está en la luz.  Ustedes saben.  Gracias, mi amigo,

  9. sweeti's says:

    well  Jorge
    do u have a method  to brainwash  my hubby???
    well u as a doc  must know  ..whisper in my ear…sttttttttttttttttttt
    well  I know  docs  dont have  rest..i have 4 around me  so i know
    they do  weekend  and  evening   in shifts…
    and when i get their list  of  real hours….NMy  God….No sleep….
    but then   Jorge   U know that  u do  a good job Ins\’t it??
    dont forget to  mail me   the  brainwash method..Plzzzzzzzzzzzz
    tx  and  do tc  HAve  a  good weekend

  10. Mei's says:

    Thank you for your kind words Jorge! Hope you had a good weekend. Mei

  11. Lisa says:

    some of my most shaking, tender, beautiful and dark memories (all occuring within the span of the same day, of course) take place in central mexico.  thank you for sharing this.  {and thank you for using your precious gifts to heal others, too. ;)}

  12. Hope says:

    I agree, it would and is far better to be the doctor than the patient.."smile"
    hope your work load is not so heavy that you loose the ability to smile in the hardest of times..
    and I pray that your day is blessed and filled with many smiles..and much love
    soft hugs Hope

  13. Barb says:

    Thank you for your lovely comment … anything survived is simply a lesson,
    and adds empathy and compassion to ones character 😛
    Be Well

  14. Patricia says:

    Jorge…thank you for being there for the ones who need you…I\’m going to have to look up los muertos…

  15. Deborah says:

    Quite a provocative poem, in that it forces me to think deeply about what is being said.  Hope all is going well for you Jorge, as you are one of my favorite bloggers.
    Blessed be

  16. Gelert says:

    That was a beautiful poem. simple and with a wonderful last line. Been too long since I read, you. Forgive me, I\’ve been \’away.\’

  17. Yours Truly says:

    Hi  Jorge,
    Your patients are fortunate that your office is there to take their calls, even on weekends.  I was wondering today what I would call my existence if it were a program on a holodeck.  Maybe the repairs program, as in house repairs, computer repairs.  Or maybe the weeding program, as in the garden needs weeding.  What would you call yours?  The relentless specter program?  I hope your day is going well despite the general thrust of the program.

  18. Patricia says:

    Jorge, thank you for stopping by…I\’ll be back to read more in a while…
    there is a pleasant silence here…

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