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.
Everything.

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.

  3. It moves me that you write poetry about your work. The dying have a place among the living. Your words give this man dignity. Your tears show your humanity. <3

  4. Through your words, I felt a glimpse of what you must have felt in this experience—powerful writing. Thanks for sharing a different view of the world than I usually get to hear. And thanks for your follow of Heart of Life Poetry, I appreciate it.

  5. I am both extremely glad and sorry for what you experienced. Glad, because of your caring nature and obvious love for what you do is expressed. Sorry, because a person under your care became your friend and then left you. I wish all docs had your heart and soul.

  6. So beautiful, yet so sad. Phoebe, I’m glad you’re a doctor — you’re restoring my faith in the practice. I hope your colleagues take note of you. 🙂

    • You know, I want to believe that most physicians out there do genuinely care, or at least want to care…but that it’s the environment of the medical field that may make it seem otherwise…

      Wishing you the best. 🙂

  7. I am so sorry for the pain you must have felt that day. I can’t begin to imagine the emotional roller coaster you must live on due to the decisions you are forced to make on a daily basis, but I do know the value of a competent, trustworthy and compassionate doctor, all of which you are in the process of becoming. Stay strong. <3 <3

    • Thank you for your kind sentiments. You know, though it was heartbreaking, I still treasure all these moments…the good and the bad…that come with practicing medicine. Although I can’t help but think, “If only I can do more to help…”

      Wishing you the best. 🙂 -phoebe

    • Yes, it was hard. Medicine, as you probably know, is immensely rewarding…but as you can imagine, since we’re dealing with human lives all the time…it can also be heartbreaking. But still, I wouldn’t trade in any of the moments. 🙂 Btw, I hope school is going well! 😀

      • Haha, i know! As hectic as it is, o can’t imagine doing anything better. School oa going really well, just finished exams today. Two more modules and we begin clinicals 😄😄. THANK YOU! 😊

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