Category: Medicine

A Lunch with a Gift.

I had lunch with a homeless man.

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. 

“Hi Doc!”

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.

Rather, the gift was given to me

 

 

The Hug.

Bitterness.
Each word, a slap.
Each consonant, piercing.
Bursting in like a winter’s storm,
you permeated into our lives.

We wanted to help you,
but we only came to fear you.
Many shook their heads in pity.
Some avoided you.
Others talked about you.

Contempt.
Each gesture, scornful.
Each insult, stinging.
My attempts to talk to you
only seemed to anger you more.

You terrified me. Yet I yearned.
To see. To know. To understand.

I knew you were frustrated.
Your disease, unforgiving.
Slowly devouring. 
I knew you were discouraged.
Your body, powerless.
Slowly succumbing.

But why wouldn’t you let us care for you?

Desperation.
Each day, the same.
Each encounter, fruitless.
You turned us away again and again. 
Until one day I confronted you. 
I asked you why.
And you told me.

I know you don’t really care. This is only your job. 

My job.

It all made sense.
The bitterness. The coldness. The distancing.
I understood.

Stepping forward,
leaving behind the pride, the decorum, 
my arms enclosed around you.
The fear escaping my racing heart
only after you made a move to wipe your eyes.

You then collapsed into me.
My shoulder, an insulation
to the sound of choked sobs.

You never said a word.
But in your cry I heard your anguish.
I heard desolation.
I heard relief.

Things were never the same after that.

Your bitterness was gone.
Your words, softer.
Your eyes, warmer.
You allowed us to care for you, 
remaining strong even
as your disease progressed.

Until one day, like winter’s snow, 
the seasons beckoned for you to leave.
But even then, as you faded away,
you reminded me of the day everything changed–

The day I gave you the hug. 

What the Stethoscope Hears.

What do I hear when I bring you to my ears?

What story does your body unveil?

I hear your heart,
the clap of each valve,
sloshes of vigor from lumen
to chamber to reveal
resilience and strength.

I hear your lungs,
the whisper of bronchi,
each crackle, each wheeze
unearthed with your breaths
to expose a hundred secrets.

I hear your bowels,
the timbre of that song,
divulging their activity
to massage a burden

through labyrinthine depths.

I hear your thyroid,
the swoosh of velocity,
fluid chased through vessels
to evoke visions of an
overzealous organ.

I hear your liver,
a resounding echo
against my fingers,

betraying your history
by disclosure of its girth.

So what do I hear when I bring you to my ears?

I hear the story that is your life.

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