A life is a mosaic, a story made up a thousand tiny chips of stone or glass or marble, seemingly random shapes that when assembled by some unseen hand enable us to see completely. And isn’t it sad or ironic or perhaps both, that we don’t ever get to see our own final product?

But I’m OK with that. I do believe that while we may see things dimly or incompletely now—an image in a mirror—we will, someday, see completely and face-to-face. That is a great comfort to me.

But while we’re here, life is lived along the way, day-by-day, action-by-action, and thought-by thought. These are the tiny chips of our respective mosaics and while each little stone might appear shapeless in the moment, in the end, each part of the puzzle will gather together to form a whole.

So, why am I thinking about this today? Because one of my good college buddies is struggling. For a variety of reasons, he’s not in good shape, practically blind, living in considerable mental and physical pain. He’s wrestling with profound end-of-life questions, and there just aren’t any good answers. He has a devoted wife who cares for him in every way possible. He has friends who would help if they (we) knew what to do. He has been a fighter of good causes throughout his life, but now he’s down for the count. Now, each little piece of his mosaic hurts terribly and we sense he’s begun to consider a painful alternative. What’s the right thing to do? Tell me!

I never imagined we would be discussing physician-assisted suicide for one of our own, but we are. I know how complicated and controversial the issue is. For a physician to provide “the necessary means and/or information to facilitate a patient’s choice to end his/her own life” seems to directly contradict that same physician’s Hippocratic Oath. Moreover, the protocols involved raise profound moral and legal questions which may be unanswerable. I turn them over and over in my own mind and come to no valid conclusion. Only the question remains.

If you’ve been reading my Musings over the years, you know I like to keep things on the lighter side. Sadly, I don’t see that side here. While my friend has led a courageous and long life, the final pieces of his mosaic are jagged, rough, colorless. As much as I hate to admit it, I pray for a quick release, whether by nature or by choice, I don’t much care. I just hate to see him suffer.

But this I do know: when it’s complete, the mosaic of my friend’s life will be rich beyond measure. The pieces will all fit and it will be a masterpiece, funny and irreverent and endearing, just as he was, just as he still is. But until that day comes, I’ll be sorting through the little chips in my own memory bank that will help to make the end product—the mosaic of my friend’s life—as bright and cheerful as it deserves to be.

I’ll be right back.

Jamie Kirkpatrick is a writer and photographer who lives in Chestertown. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Washington College Alumni Magazine, and American Cowboy Magazine.

Two collections of his essays (“Musing Right Along” and “I’ll Be Right Back”) are available on Amazon. Jamie’s website is

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