Note and Disclaimer: Never will we own M*A*S*H. But we can still write about it. Enjoy part fifteen of "By the Graveside"…
It was purely by accident that the physiologist met Henry Blake. He had been called from Seoul to tend to one of his men, one Corporal Klinger, to determine if a Section Eight was merited for the cross-dressing man. While the soldier did not accept the terms and conditions of the release, the psychologist warmed up to the rest of the personnel. He was a friend and confidante and very well loved.
And that was how Henry Blake invited him to their medical conferences. His professionalism, kindness and wit won him a place in the hearts of those in the 4077th. Every so often, he was there for some poker or talk to someone, either one of the wounded or one of the gang. Sometimes, he went there for some therapy of his own. Either way, he was a welcoming friend and part of their inner circle. He had to thank Henry for that.
More's the shame when it came to Henry too. The psychologist was deeply saddened by his death. He had been stationed at battalion aide with a frightened and wounded eighteen-year-old when the news arrived. It was by accident too that he heard it. The chopper pilot had been talking to someone else, a medic familiar with the people at the 4077th. The disastrous story had been repeated, peppered with details of who did the deed, why that plane was targeted and how many people perished.
His professionalism did not allow him to grieve that moment. He only walked his patient to the chopper and helped to strap him for the ride. He watched the kid leave, waving goodbye, all with promises to catch up to him later. Once nobody was looking, when he was alone in a corner and out of the way, he began crying.
The psychologist never allowed himself the luxury of sobbing. Even when several events of his life demanded that he break down, he always kept up the façade, that he was stoic and strong, and kept going. When his father suddenly died and his mother left an empty shell, he took control. The way his life was shaped later – from his career as that psychologist to being a university favorite – turned him into a character of charm, power and reliability. That was partially why the Army loved him so much, enough to have him drafted and sent away from his wife and son.
So, why had he collapsed like a child and cried his heart out? Why had one man, who he saw maybe three to four times a month socially (more if business called), punched him in the stomach this hard? What was so different about Henry Blake that the psychologist could not shake off?
Why, why, why?! Why did it have to be Henry?
The psychologist could name many sources to label his sadness. His favorite person to call upon, Sigmund Freud, said that death was the "Great Unknown", where all those who lived could aim to achieve. Death was a natural cycle, something everyone should be aware of. There was more Freud said, from our reactions to the death of those close to oneself to a fear of death itself, but that did not matter.
There was nothing the psychologist could take comfort in. His grief was total garbage. But there was no stopping him running through its various stages. There were many things he wanted to blame for Henry dying. Henry didn't have age or illness to point a finger at. Then again, Freud did not have a theory concerning war and how innocent people get killed. He only studied the occurrence and nothing more.
But there was one thing that Sidney Freedman knew to be the truth. The Korean Conflict was as senseless as his tears. There was nothing that was logical about being in a country and shooting at people that didn't directly hit his home country. He had to stand up and be a man again, a pillar that people can hold onto. This sort of silliness could wait.
It was easy for Sidney to brush off the dirt from that corner and to get on with his life. While Henry was sent to the back burner of his mind for the time being, he never forgot the man nor his helplessness. He found a way, using his patients as a way to cope. In the course of his tenure, that was all he had to hold onto. If Sidney permitted that part of him to intrude, he was going to be no help to anyone.
That day at the graveside, far from the shooting, Sidney found the peace he didn't achieve in Korea. It was closure, pure and simple. Right here and now, he was able to come to terms with what happened to Henry. Oh, he had his memories. Those he will hold onto forever. However, what had conspired in his mind was an expected reaction, as innocent as death itself. There was no shame in it. He only had to find some hope within this disaster and move on.
Sidney found that this kind of therapy was the best there was. After all, Freud never had anything to say about that.