Death & Loss

The Tragedy Behind a Poem.

We did it. We took it out.

Slowly, the oxygen saturation dropped.
Gradually, the alarms sounded.
Insisting. Imploring us to do something.
We turned them off.
Made him comfortable.
But we knew we couldn’t hide the truth.

We were letting him suffocate.

~     ~     ~

A lucid man.
A failing lung. A decision made.
A breathing tube placed—just temporarily—
until the lungs healed.
Until they got stronger. Until he got stronger.
But I saw the regret the moment it was inserted.
Nevertheless. We agreed to give it a chance.

But days passed. Then weeks.
No improvement.
Being alert, he communicated with us well.
Through his writing, I got to know him well.
His adventures. His best memory. His regrets in life.
He was a good man.

But a man who never desired to live like this.

While the family disputed on what course of action to take next,
he remained calm and unwavering.

“Please let me go.” was what he would say.

Then finally the moment came.

The time to say goodbye.

~     ~     ~

That day, I let myself weep during rounds.
In front of a crowd of stoic faces.
To weep over a friend.
To weep over a human being.
Over his courage.
An impossible decision.
The loss of a life.

Because I didn’t want to do it. But I did.

I let go.

•      •      •

“To Let Go” – the poem

39 replies »

  1. Thank you for the compassion in this piece that rings so true.

    As you may know, Oregon (where I live) permits prior Decisions in Dying, a universal need in my thinking.

  2. That was a hard decision to make, Phoebe, especially when you’ve got to know the person. You and your colleagues have tried what you could to save a life but under those circumstances someone had to make that difficult decision. We can get very attached to people we care for and compassion fills our hearts. However, it is wonderful to know that there are still people who are called to your profession who do practice care and compassion in their decision making. Do be encouraged as you continue to serve your patients with your heart. 🙂 Hugs. Much love, Iris.

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