Columnists, Articles

October 1st, 2016

Irrepressible soul

By Alan Bodnar Ph.D.

In a book group discussing the spirituality of caring for people with dementia, it doesn’t take long before we begin to discuss how dementia affects the personhood of the afflicted. It is a question at once philosophical and practical. What remains when dementia has robbed a person of his memories and his capacity to think logically, speak coherently and express relevant ideas and emotions? On a practical level, if the answer is nothing of the individual’s former self, then his loved ones can spare themselves the anguish and inconvenience of regular visits. In that sense, our loved one has already [More]

August 19th, 2016

Non-compete agreements raise issues

By Edward Stern J.D.

Massachusetts is taking another look at non-compete agreements. Historically, non-compete agreements were in place to limit an employee, who leaves the employment of a particular employer, from competing with that employer after his term of employment ends. The concept of these non-compete agreements was based on a belief that the employer has provided the employee with specific training or inside, proprietary information (such as trade secrets or customer-patient lists), which should be limited in its use competing against the employer. The countervailing pressure, in support of an employee going to a new position without any constraints, is that an employee [More]

August 19th, 2016

The surprising life of Sister Mary

By Alan Bodnar Ph.D.

At the risk of appearing to be living a cliché of the retired life, I must say that I have been spending more time these days reading obituaries. It could be because I have more time to read the morning paper and the obituaries are printed in the same section as the funnies. I always turn to the funnies after a brief glance at the bad news on the front page. Bad news can wait and, if I somehow miss it in the paper, that’s what television and Internet news programs are for. I also receive obituaries by email from [More]

July 1st, 2016

One Perfect Life

By Alan Bodnar Ph.D.

“There is not a short life or a long life. There is only the life that you have and the life you have is the life you are given, the life you work with. It has its own shape, describes its own arc and is perfect.” This passage, attributed to the ancient Greeks, is easy enough for anyone favored by fortune but these are hard words for those who find themselves at a significant disadvantage. It would be hard to argue that life is anything less than perfect if it is long, filled with loving family and friends, material comforts [More]

June 1st, 2016

The next best thing to being there

By Alan Bodnar Ph.D.

Today there are more ways than ever to stay in touch with family and friends and, as I am discovering, each has its own preferred modes of expression, rules of etiquette, advantages, and risks. For a few days last month, I traded emails with three friends whom I have known for more than 50 years as we shared our reactions to the passing of Daniel Berrigan, the priest, poet and antiwar activist who inspired many of our generation. The constraints of time and distance limit our face-to-face encounters to only a few times a year but emails, texts, and periodic [More]

May 1st, 2016

Pruning our lives

By Alan Bodnar Ph.D.

It is a warm Friday morning in April and my wife is out to an estate sale. If she sees anything interesting, she will buy it or, if it is something big or expensive, she will call me for a second opinion. This is our usual arrangement and it has worked well over the years to keep our accumulation of treasures within reasonable limits. These days we are buying less and discarding more or at least that is our intention. I used to think that this kind of downsizing was an annoying habit of old people too focused on preparing [More]

April 1st, 2016


By Alan Bodnar Ph.D.

He said he didn’t care what happened to him so he didn’t seem to be bothered that he was still in the custody of the court and confined to the hospital. His indifference was part of his depression and his depression had invaded the very core of his identity. If he had his way, he would end his life and pass on to the next world or to no world at all. Anything was better than living with the loss of the dream that he was so close to achieving before it all crashed. The man was stuck. Despite the [More]

March 1st, 2016

Marking the passage of time

By Alan Bodnar Ph.D.

I have always been conscious of the passage of time and my place in its flow. As a small boy traveling by bus and subway from my suburban New Jersey home to visit my cousins in Brooklyn for the weekend, I couldn’t help but notice the train returning on the opposite track and thinking that I would be riding it all too soon. Beginnings carry within them the seed of their endings. If you happen to notice this simple fact, you will either find it hard to enjoy the moment or immerse yourself so thoroughly in it, that you’ll have [More]

February 1st, 2016

Learning new ways to connect

By Alan Bodnar Ph.D.

With the gift of time that retirement brings and the opportunity to continue doing some clinical work, I am noticing a change in the way I talk with people in and out of the office. It may have something to do with a change in perspective that comes from shedding some of the trappings of professional life and having more time to be truly present in my encounters with others. In a hospital where I consult, I see a man who is far from home and family. He was depressed to begin with and the holidays hit him hard. Now [More]

January 1st, 2016

Criminal responsibility at heart of case

By Edward Stern J.D.

Every so often a case comes along that raises a curious question. One such case is Commonwealth v. Shin, cited as 86 MASS. App. Ct. 381 (2014). The case is presented as having a single issue: “whether at the time of the incident the defendant was criminally responsible?” The facts of the case, abridged from those presented in the published decision, are that “the defendant lifted his hand and touched the victim between her legs on her upper thigh, within ‘two inches’ of her genital area.” This event occurred on a crowded trolley car in Boston, Massachusetts. The victim pushed [More]