Asphyxiated by the device
meant to grant you life
you pleaded to be released.
through your veins
fighting to give you strength-
they only imprisoned you.
aware of the
commotion about you.
through it all
your eyes were
locked onto mine.
“Help me let go” was your plea.
You grabbed my hand
shook your head
as if you knew this act
had been playing
As if someone had
interrupted your journey
toward the place
you were meant to go.
So we released you.
Withdrew your tube
diminished your drips.
Severed the chains that bound you.
We comforted you.
toward your children.
Through a surge of strength
you assured them
it would be okay-
that through your going on
they would go on.
Then you turned back to me.
of your last moments
you entrusted them to me.
You held my hand
held my gaze.
“Thank you,” was what you said.
And then you took your last breath.
And let us go.
If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain;
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.
Poured out upon humanity…
Dear friends, May I tell you about someone? It’s about one courageous woman who has a beautiful heart who just happens to have a brain tumor. She has undergone surgery and a long bout of chemoradiation, and although she has fought hard and continues…
A hope for the future…
A bustling hospital. An unexpected arrival. A frigid Christmas eve.
I was saying goodbye to another patient when fate collided us.
“I’m sorry father,” I heard his son say, “you can no longer live with us, but here is a nice doctor who will find you a home. Merry Christmas, dad.”
Pretending not to notice his son’s exasperation as he pleaded for him to stay, I choked down the anguish from my own awareness of what was being witnessed and proceeded to examine him.
Bound to the prison of his seat—scared, bewildered, frail—he looked so lost. He asked why, what he did wrong, where his son had gone, not fully comprehending the chaos surrounding. A deep sigh escaped pursed lips as I searched within for an answer that failed to come. Taking his hands, contorted by disease, I gazed into eyes dulled by years gone by—their hope fading beneath a glimmer of fear of an iniquitous present and that of an unpromised future–and I made him a promise I wondered if I myself could keep.
“It’s going to be okay…you’ll see.”
But hours pass, and it was not okay—he couldn’t sleep, he wouldn’t eat, and the only sound I heard as I passed the door of his half-vacant room was the resonance of muffled tears.
Behind a mask, I also let myself weep.
* * *
Soon the day ended. I entered his room, prepared to make my final rounds. But instead of a bid goodbye, what came out was an exclamation of the first words that came to my mind.
“Sir, I think we should have a party!”
And that was what we did.
A 90-year-old veteran. A 30-year-old internist. A 20-year-old nurse.
Gathered around his bed, over reconstituted hot cocoa, he shared with us his history, his joys, his life’s adventures. Over paper cups of chicken broth, I told him my story. As the muted treble of holiday cheer dripped through the bedside radio, together we heralded in, with bittersweetness, the arrival of Christmas Day.
He then took my hand.
As I started to apologize for the late hour, he stopped me. Eyes still glimmering, I heard him laugh, and I believed I finally caught a glimpse of what was the real him.
“Thank you for a blessed Christmas,” he said.
A blessed one, indeed.
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.
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.
I knew you were discouraged.
Your body, powerless.
But why wouldn’t you let us care for you?…
I met you my intern year. I remember the first thing you said to me.
“I don’t care to be here.”
With a countenance creased from decades of hardship, a gait staggered from illness, eyes steeled by sufferings, your restrained presence betrayed a sheath impervious. I believed you previously had poor experiences in similar settings, because you told me so. I knew you didn’t trust me, because you told me so.
Our first few visits were stippled with formality. I posed questions; you answered. But they weren’t your answers, but perhaps words you knew I wanted to hear. I half expected you to stop coming. But you never did. Instead, you continued to sit there, guarded, a portrait of cordiality and cautiousness.
And then one day it happened…
Burnout. To be burnt.
When we simply stop caring.
Most of the time we don’t even need
to say anything. But you know.
You hear it in our voice.
You see it in our eyes.
And you feel it too.
You know what
is going through our
mind with each wayward glance.
Is this what I signed up for?
Is this all this profession has to offer?
Because I have seen the articles.
To prevent physician burnout.
Changes we must make.
Putting us first.
I too used to be desperate.
What is happening to me?
What is happening to my colleagues?
What is happening to medicine?…
If I could give the world a gift,
in a form simple, pure- a trifling shift-
some comfort to the day, a smile to your heart,
wisdom for your soul, warmth to every part.
If I could give a gift that’s real,
each bruising stab, its wound would heal.
The scar resulting, to remain no more,
but a closure true, stilled to the core.
But if I could give a gift of mine,
what would it be but a drop in the Rhine?
A carbon in diamond, an atom of a stone-
What difference would it make, if made alone?
If I could give the world a gift,
true and honest, though slight, a lift-
to share my love ’til love’s no more.
May we flow this gift together…a drip into a pour.