The Parting Glass

Tis the dark and wintry season. By the time you will read this, the days will have gotten as short as they will get, and the sun will be coming back. We have snow up here on the Palouse, though it has been a mild December until now. I haven’t worried about the antifreeze in the old truck once. But winter has just begun. There’s still time for bitter cold.

I love the old Irish tune, The Parting Glass. I first heard it in the University of Idaho Administration Auditorium. Josh Ritter gave a small concert there some years back for Moscow, his hometown. He sang this song as his last encore, acapella. The mournful tune and lilting words struck me.

The lines that tug my heart, besides the tune:

But since it falls unto my lot
That I should rise and you should not
I gently rise and softly call
Good night and joy be to you all

It brings to mind my friends and colleagues who have gone, parted and cannot rise for the parting glass.

It has been a year where maybe we are getting used to more death amongst us.

We have seen more deaths this year on Idaho highways than in any of the previous 15 years. Idaho Department of Transportation indicates about 40% of deaths in 2020 were attributed to impaired drivers. Should we be getting used to this?

The opioid deaths continue. Over 100,000 Americans died from narcotic overdose in the 12-month period ending last April, up over 28% from the previous year. Idaho’s total won’t be finalized for a few months. Maybe we are doing better than other states at keeping our folks alive. Maybe not. I can’t get used to this.

Idaho saw a dip in our suicide deaths in 2021, at least when we had a count in August. The year before, 2020 Idaho had 430 suicides, a record. But the year end total has not been tallied. We can hope. I believe we can make some difference.

But then, there is the total number of deaths Idaho has seen this year, at a record rate. When tallied in November, Idaho’s death rate was 20% above what would be expected in a “normal” year for our current population, and there were two months left on the calendar to count.

Idaho has lost over 4000 citizens to COVID. Most elderly, many were nursing home residents, but some were young, even children, some even immunized, though the vast majority not. Should we be getting used to these losses?

But when you raise that parting glass, and wish joy to all, you can’t think of numbers, you remember faces and people and feel the loss; that we can rise, and they cannot.

When I think of their passing, that they cannot rise to hear my wish of joy and good cheer, I think of Jim, his sad smile, and more.

… of Sam with the sharp wit and more

… of Charley and his joy that he so happily shared and more

…Sande, so young, so wise and so much more

The list can grow long. It will grow longer as I age. Yours will too.

This is not to despair. It is but a simple truth. We live and we will die. But to live in joy and health our allotted years, is my parting glass wish to you, my neighbors. I work to this end daily.

So, raise your glass now and wish joy to your comrades, your loved ones your neighbors and friends. Our time grows short. Let us share it in joy.

About ddxdx

A Family physician, former county coroner and former Idaho State Senator
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