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.
Your hard gaze glimmering with moisture, I saw your shell break. I then got to know you. Little by little, visit by visit. I learned of the pain you endure. I learned of your frustrations, your desperation…your despair. I learned of your deep heart. I learned many things. But most importantly, I learned who you were.
Months went by. Gradually a smile seeped through. Your eyes now shined as you shared with me the latest on your life. A life that I was lucky enough to now be a part of. But suddenly three years pass, and as my time with the clinic comes to an end, we now must part. On your last visit, I sense your frustration and anguish again, and I think I understand why. As you cry I reassure you that everything will be okay. But as I comfort you I am struck by a sudden surge of emotion, and I also struggle to keep my composure.
You see, through this experience, I have started to recognize what it is you were talking about. An understanding. A connection. Some may even say a friendship. Because even though you may not know this, I am now happier because you are happier. Because you are now healthier, more satisfied. Full of life.
Now as we part I feel the tearing of a piece of my soul. As we hug one last time the goodbye is silent and understood. But then you pull back, look me in the eyes, and say simply, “Thank you for helping me live.”
As I hold back my own tears, I realize I am thinking the same thing.
Thank you for helping me live.