My parents, Grady and Mary Mauney, were good friends and neighbors of the local Chevrolet dealer, Bill Turner, and his wife, Trilby. They had two kids about my age, and then later had another child, TK. At a young age, TK developed meningitis and was hospitalized at Bowman Gray Hospital in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. TK was eventually placed on a ventilator, her prognosis poor. I rode with my parents from Forest City, North Carolina to see Bill and Trilby at the hospital. I still remember the steadfast strength shown by Bill Turner while facing this personal tragedy. Trilby demonstrated her own strength through her faith in God.
We listened as Bill described how the doctors had just reported the results of an EEG, which showed no brain activity. They were faced with a gut wrenching decision. I watched as my Dad listened, saying little, but offering his support through his presence there. His eyes welled up with tears. I had never seen my Dad cry. He probably had, especially when his brother Charles died a few years earlier. My Dad was a real man, lover of sports, a father of three, husband to my Mom. He was a professional, a dentist, who took pride in his work and his family. But I had never seen him cry. Until he sat next to Bill Turner and learned of TK’s likely fate. She died shortly after our visit.
As lawyers, we are most often problem solvers, working through difficult situations for our clients, perhaps resolving some conflict. We are trained to dispassionately scrutinize the facts and analytically apply the law to those facts. In doing so, lawyers often neglect their internal feelings, suppressing their innermost emotions and thoughts in favor of cold, analytical reasoning. The result is that lawyers often struggle with their own mental health, not paying enough attention to that side of ourselves. We need to be reminded of the importance of our own emotional well-being, taking the necessary steps to be both physically and emotionally healthy.
It was appropriate for my Dad to cry that day, as he visited with Bill and Trilby Turner. It was an emotionally healthy thing for him to do. It showed that he understood the depth of their suffering. As professionals, we should learn that lesson and let ourselves fully experience our emotions under appropriate circumstances.