The last time I worked with him was in
Musicians and audiences seem to have an unlimited amount of sympathy for victims of illnesses or accidents that are visible. There are polio victims that have had successful careers, in spite of the obvious obstacles they continually face. I have seen many a soloist show up with a leg in a cast, or a bandaged finger. Even orchestra members sometimes cash in on this sympathy factor and have themselves brought onto the stage in a wheelchair. While the pain and discomfort of a polio victim is easy to fathom, Mr. Vonk and numerous others suffering from chronic or terminal illnesses cannot have a label attached to their back: “I have Lou Gehrig’s”, “Burn Victim” or anything of the sort. Mr. Vonk was a Dutchman, and in
Today’s New York Times had a story about a mother with shingles and her daughter, a doctor. Although I didn't find it particularly well written, to be in the Science Times, it nevertheless brought attention to a rather common cause of hard-to-treat pain. I was only five when my first outbreak happened, and clearly remember the doctor coming to the house and saying that he had never seen shingles in such a young patient. That wasn’t particularly bad if my memory is correct, but a number of later episodes have been agonizing. The older the person is, the more likely shingles is to cause residual pain that won’t go away, turning into post-herpetic neuralgia. Even strongest opioids don’t always help, but thankfully there are new medicines that are of promise. Perhaps in my lifetime chronic pain will be no more an issue to cope with.
Which brings me to the point: if a person isn’t always all happy and jolly, or seems to have a short fuse, don’t rush to blame him or her for the behavior. Had I been in Mr. Vonk’s shoes, there would have been little to smile about. May he forgive us all for any ill thoughts we might have harbored, wherever his soul is, as we were just ignorant.