One year ago my life changed completely when I had a seizure and was diagnosed with brain cancer. I’ve been thinking about the St. Crispian’s Day speech in Shakespere’s Henry V. You might recall that King Henry is rousing his troops before the Battle of Agincourt:
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam’d,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say “To-morrow is Saint Crispian.”
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,
And say “These wounds I had on Crispin’s day.”
My personal favorite version is by Kenneth Branagh:
April 11, 2016 is the vigil of my personal St. Crispian’s. Tomorrow, I will feast my lab and my department — I’m thinking pastries and coffee — and hopefully remind everyone how improbable and miraculous it is to exist at all.
These wounds I had on St. Crispian’s Day.
Band of Brothers
The St. Crispian’s Day speech is also the origin of the phrase “Band of Brothers”, which has subsequently been appropriated by Admiral Nelson, Stephen Ambrose, HBO, and others.
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother.
Alas, those diagnosed with cancer are neither few nor happy, but they are hereafter my brothers and sisters. This weekend, I was fortunate to participate in WashU’s Relay for Life, and much to my surprise,
I found myself front and center of the ceremonial first lap around the track. In Shakespere’s telling, King Henry describes himself as “the most offending soul alive” in coveting honor. I don’t desire glory as he does, but I will admit it was a nice moment to be leading a host of cancer survivors when we turned the final corner of the track and the crowd gave us a standing ovation.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered