My cousin Logan loved playing Cousin Monopoly. This is just regular Monopoly; the only difference is that you play with cousins. Logan was the youngest cousin in our games, but he still always won. In every game, he gave extra money from his own stash to whoever was losing just to make the game last longer. Logan was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor right before he turned eight years old. Over the next year, we watched him struggle through treatments while he lost the ability to run, walk and speak. As time went on he could no longer do a lot of the activities that he loved. On one especially frustrating day, his mom asked him if there was anything that sounded fun. He said, “Cousin Monopoly.” Consequently, I flew to California so that a game of regular Monopoly could become Cousin Monopoly. We played three games of Cousin Monopoly that weekend before I had to go back to school. Logan won every game. He died two weeks later.
A month after Logan’s passing, some little cousins asked if they could play Cousin Monopoly. Known for not being able to say no to the little ones and excited to get to teach them the game, I obliged. They were too young to understand the rules and fought with each other over who got to be the banker and who got which properties. It felt all wrong. Logan was the one that made Cousin Monopoly fun. I sobbed. Logan was gone. We never finished that game, and I decided I couldn’t play Monopoly again without Logan.
As it turns out, Monopoly is an easy game to avoid. I went five years without playing until I found myself in a children’s hospital as a medical student, asking an eight-year-old boy if there was anything that sounded fun. He said Monopoly was his favorite game and asked if we could play. Unable to say no, I found a Monopoly game in the child life office and brought it to his room. He kicked my butt like Logan always did. It healed a part of me that was still hurting and allowed me to finally celebrate that memory.
As a student of medicine, I’ve been fortunate to spend the last several years studying the art of healing. We too often try to equate healing with cures and recovery. Most of our learning and research encompasses the science that offers cures and recovery, but cures aren’t always available and recovery isn’t always possible or desired. Healing is always obtainable. Logan’s healing was in his death. Mine was in a game of Monopoly.