You already knew. Gaze unflinching, you told us to say the words.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis A. L. S.
Despite sparse questions, your eyes revealed an understanding far deeper than our answers- that with one moment, robbed were you of the years ahead, of memories awaiting, of stories belonging to you. Now lost.
Strength dissolving, your conviction remains unscathed. You savor each passing sunrise. Each caress, each step. For you know. As your legs cease to support, arms stop to comply, you still feel your child’s touch. Absorbing her love. Pretending you don’t care the roles have been reversed as you yearn to return her embrace.
As its hunger ascends, You treasure the remaining days. Every word, every smile. For you know. Soon it consumes your voice, drains your visage, until all that is left is the silence of a vacant mask. Unable to reflect your thought’s grin, your heart’s laugh, your soul tears as you blink away the moisture.
As your breaths increasingly betray you, you are not defeated, for the flames of your bruised spirit are not quenched, and you give thanks for the time you had, even as your body dims and you fade away.
But not just any man. An elderly man, a former high school teacher…and a former patient of mine from a charity clinic where I used to work.
It happened as I was driving through downtown, stopped at a light beneath an overpass. Suddenly, I heard a familiar voice.
Since we were both hungry, we did the natural thing: we went for lunch at a nearby cafe. Despite intrigued glances from others, we had a lovely lunch. Looking back, it may have been one of the most enjoyable lunches I’ve ever had.
A few days later, I was contacted by the clinic who informed me that I had received a letter from a patient. And here I will share it with you—in a form put into verse by me but which maintains its original wording:
Dear doc, you have been so kind to me. Why, you even took me to lunch. I wish I could give you something in return, but I know I don’t have much.
So I write these simple words to you in hope that on those days that they’ll make you smile and give you strength and peace in many ways.
You are a doctor to many, but an angel you have been to me, who encouraged, cared, and healed my pain, and a light you made me see.
I am sad that you are no longer my doc but am glad that you are my friend. And I hope we can keep in touch until the very end.
So why did I share this? Because I was “challenged” by Liz to give a gift to someone. But now I realize—I don’t think I succeeded in giving anything to anyone.
Founded in 2014 by Dr. Phoebe Chi, Health + Inspiration is a health information and literary arts website designed to inspire, empower, and inform through a curated mix of essential health information, uplifting stories, and original poetry.