Now reading Abraham Verghese’s cinematic novel, Cutting for Stone, a first-person account of a young surgeon who’s trying to discover his past to better understand his relationship with his long-estranged twin brother. It describes the work of his father (also a surgeon) in exquisite detail, all the while drawing us deeper into the complex personality of all three men. An extraordinary accomplishment for a first-time novelist.

In one scene, we see the elder surgeon monitoring the pulse of a desperately ill patient and then walking away, having made the decision not to operate. Why not? his young protegé asks.

“Remember the eleventh commandment,” Dr. Stone says. “Thou shalt not operate on the day of the patient’s death.”

We need to practice such restraint far more often in the face of suffering and death. Our human desire to prolong physical life at any cost makes us grasp at any possible remedy — even untried, experimental remedies — to try to cheat death. Yet serenity, acceptance, even affirmation of death would be a better testimony of our faith in God’s promise of eternal life.