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As we persevere through the coronavirus battle together, yet apart, I am reminded of a veteran patient of mine who lost his brother near the end of World War II. His poignant account of the special bond that was severed by his brother’s death inspired me to write this vignette and poem, I’ll Be Seeing You. The brothers lived and were separated during a period of crisis and navigated the emotion of fear and ache of desperation clouded by the darkness of an uncertain time. Their story seems to echo the sudden grief and longing that many in the world are experiencing at this very moment. As countless souls perish, dying alone from the unseen enemy of COVID-19, their surviving loved ones are left stunned and traumatized, like my patient. Thousands of people across the world find themselves confronted by the alien reality of not being able to comfort their loved ones through a terminal illness and the collective grief of having no funeral, no social rituals of mourning and no real closure after their deaths. In a real sense, they find themselves grieving the very ability to grieve; feeling the exquisite pain of losing a loved one without being able to say goodbye.

Here is the way my patient told his story:
My brother Sam and I used to compare notes on who was the best singer. “Bing Crosby!” he would exclaim. I’d say “Bye Bye Blues” was my favorite song and he said, “No, ‘I’ll Be Seeing You,’ sung by Bing and Louis Armstrong was the true classic.” I played guitar in the old New York clubs. He would sing with me and we shared a special connection as brothers and musicians. We were a popular duo act, and we really brought the audience in. Then we went to war and were assigned to separate destroyers.

Near the end of World War II, he wrote me a letter. He told me that, when he looked up at the moon at night from his ship, he would see me, just like in the lyrics of the song. The moon reminded him of me and of his favorite crooner. He felt he would be coming home soon and that we would reunite to play again in our old haunts.

My biggest regret is that I never had a chance to write back to him. How I wish I had written to my only brother! He really was my favorite singer. His death shook me to my core. His destroyer was bombed. It blew apart and he was never found: They listed him as lost at sea. His last letter was signed “I’ll be seeing you.”

I wrote the following poem, titled I’ll Be Seeing You, with the final words of Sam’s last letter in mind. My patient, now deceased, provided consent for me to share his story and no actual names or identifiers have been used.

I’ll Be Seeing You

By Dr. Mary C. Rorro 

Looking at the moon,
but I’ll be seeing you,
baby brother,
singing “Bye Bye Blues.”
How many moons,
must be seen,
until we play,
again in peace?
By old familiar places,
we’ll be,
far from harm,
of the unquiet sea.
Send me some news,
don’t wait too long,
before you know,
we’ll be heading home.
Another moon,
covers ominous night,
a prayer, a wish,
that you’re alright.
Dear brother please,
write me soon,
my hope fades,
with every new moon

About the Poet

Dr. Mary C. Rorro is a Bryn Mawr college alumna and board-certified, Harvard-trained psychiatrist who completed an addiction psychiatry fellowship at Massachusetts General Hospital. A musician, composer and published poet, Dr. Rorro composed the Centennial theme song, Physicians, Healers, for the International Centennial Congress of the American Medical Women's and Medical Women's International Associations in New York.