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My Gratitude in 2022

Francis Henry Morrison


  • David was a physician who made a positive impact on many lives through his medical expertise and compassionate nature.
  • Fran gives thanks for David's life and acknowledges the lasting legacy he leaves behind.
My Gratitude in 2022

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David, my college roommate, lifelong physician, and personal friend, lost his brief but eventful battle with pancreatic cancer, leaving his family to grieve and miss him. Our visits during his anguished last illness brought home to us both our love for each other. We were each other’s dearest male friend, and after his death, I knew we would always love each other– and for all of this, I am grateful.

We first met in September, 1965. David faced and met the gauntlet of the school’s pre-medical program. From the very start, David’s empathy for his fellow human beings was front and center, and so was his tendency to speak his mind—something that shone through in his caring for his patients later in his almost 50 years as a physician. If he felt that a patient’s needs were not being met, administrators and other physicians heard from David—not always a happily received message.

David’s love of the profession of medicine was second only to his love for his wife, daughter (a practicing RN), and son (serving in the explosives ordinance of the Navy). When David first received his grim diagnosis—and he fully understood what was coming—the first thing he said to me from his hospital bed was that his wife was his best friend and the love of his life.

At the height of the pandemic, David told me of his concerns as a father and physician for the well-being of his daughter working at a hospital with negative pressure rooms—important for the care of Covid-19 patients. He shared with me the heartbreaking tales about he and his wife meeting his daughter at commuter parking lots to leave her food, but not being able to have any physical contact. He related the anguish of watching his beloved daughter working under an exhausting schedule with fellow workers who did not always practice meticulous attention to the critical details of her work.

Over the years, David spoke with me of his pride in his son’s success in the Navy doing explosive ordinance disposal work. From my own albeit shorter Navy career, I shared with David the demands of daily EOD work—including leadership skills of a Senior Petty officer, the dangerous aspects of diving, parachuting, and working with weapons. I told David that meeting those demands reflected well earned achievement by his son and recognition of that achievement by the Navy.

I would be remiss if I did not share his children’s sacrifice and love that I saw during David’s last days. They were loving toward their mother and empathetic toward her grief and exhaustion caring for David. I was told by David and his wife that the nurse manned the night shift caring for David every night. Their son was there for all of the large and small things that a gravely ill cancer patient needs.

As difficult as David’s last illness was for his wife, without this help she would have been physically and emotionally overwhelmed.  And, lest we forget, David’s children managed to render all of this loving care to him while stricken with their own palpable grief over their father’s mostly unrelieved suffering from the ravages of pancreatic cancer.

As I think back over all the years of our friendship, I smile with gratitude at some of the events that were “essential David.” Somewhere in the mid-1990’s my wife, Sally, got two tickets to a live Rolling Stones concert in the Hartford Civic Center. David, a life-long lover of the Stones and all rock, was the no-brainer choice to go. I was a newbie when it came to indoor rock concerts—and our tickets were mid-stage (maybe 10 rows back) and facing speakers that looked like sky- scrapers. David arrived on the appointed day with large earplugs. It was clear to me during the first number that they were basic survival equipment—I now understand why lots of baby boomers who attended rock concerts without ear plugs are now hard of hearing! During the concert, the Civic Center gradually filled with sweet-smelling smoke. David said, “Fran, do you know what that smell is?” Not waiting for my response, he answered “Pot.” I told David that the pounding of the speakers on my sternum required chest protectors!

David was in his element at our class reunions over the years . All reunion events, including the check-in, meals, mass, class events and even farewells, were David’s personal invitation to go from classmate to classmate and exclaim –“ How are you!” with a hug. While attending reunions with David could be exhausting, you could only smile at his love of people.

My own family, including my 100-year-old mother, my deceased father, and my deceased uncle/godfather all personally experienced David’s empathy as a physician--two examples say it all: during one of David’s visits to West Hartford, late on a Saturday night,Sally began to complain about a painful rash which David diagnosed as shingles. He insisted that we take Sally to a 24-hour CVS pharmacy and he used his DEA card to write and fill a prescription for gabapentin. That early and effective treatment saved Sally from a much more serious case of shingles.

Over the years, David has helped me with advice and empathy for my illnesses, including prostate cancer and a torn quadricep tendon. During his last illness, he knew that I was considering a knee joint replacement. Even though David had lost his voice at the time of my visit to his home in July, he wanted me to know that he thought that I should have the surgery. He pointed to his knee and made cutting motions with his finger. He followed that gesture with an emphatic thumbs up sign and his ebullient smile.

David was ever the empathetic physician and loving friend. Most days I have an aching reminder that I miss him. I cannot count the many days when I have offered a silent prayer of thanks for his life.

May David find the peace and rest he has so richly earned.