stay, he said
when I asked
what he wanted
when I could do
nothing but provide
the most human things;
touch, eyes, and a voice
next to his bed
we spoke of irony,
how the disease
claimed him before 30
we spoke of love
before either of us
truly understood the definition
and in the second person;
book smart and life stupid
he labeled us both,
me with a biochemistry book
on the floor near his bed
studying for exams
on my lunch break,
a book he could have written
nothing in common
but that book,
& how we both breathed
but I stayed
& held his hand
until he slept
& then watched his sleep,
clouded and uneasy
unheard of to visit
off the clock,
the other staff murmuring
at our shared humanity
among the lights,
the beep of heartbeats
and charted vital signs
but, because he asked,
I was the thread
connecting him to exhausted flesh
until his family came
to finish watching him die
***Inspired by Unfettered BS today, her poem triggered a memory, going back 20 years now, when I sat with a patient until morning, long after my shift was over at the MICU; simply because he was not that much older than I, and because he asked me to stay. This is for him, that young postdoc studying of all things leukemia, which is what killed him. Here is a link to the poem that inspired this one.
The best caregivers are those with emotional resources and the strength to remain at a bedside past the end of a shift. As a culture we are so afraid and puzzled by death, thank you for staying with that young man years ago and giving us all this glimpse of those moments.
David–it was truly my honor to do so.
you helped lead that gentle soul where it needed to go, with love for a fellow human. proud to know you Susan, and not the least bit surprised. love you
Thanks, my friend. What else do you do when someone asks to not be alone, but be human together?
perfectly so. and not all would do it, so be proud of your humanity my friend.
Thanks, SFAM. Get your reading glasses ready–off to the creek 🙂
hey…already there. using the daylight to catch up as we speak! be gentle tho…please? lol
🙂 will 2 short ones be ok?
There is no greater kindness than to bear witness to someone ending a journey and beginning another. I did this for my dad and my mom and as heartbreaking as it was, it was the most love I could show. You did this for a patient – with respect and love and humanity. You are a wonder.
Thanks, Mimi–it was one of the most profound experiences of my life, to give him this. It really was not much he was asking for.
And yet, it was so much that you gave him.
Thanks, Mimi. I will never, ever forget that night.
Dear God, Susan, I could not do this today. I mean, yes, this is wonderfully written, but it leaves me in tears. There has been too much of parting in this life, too much of death and sorrow, and now for me to be so much in love, and to face this separation from my beloved … I am wounded beyond words. How immensely fragile is this life. We survive, yes, sometimes even thriving. But in the face of it all, how little endurance we have for those moments. Those shattering moments.
Oh, George, I do so know what you mean.
Susan, this is beautiful. You brought me right in: I am in that room watching the two of you.
Jeremy–thank you. It was a sad and beautiful experience to be part of.
Just the way I’ve pictured your soul
oh, now–now you have made me blush, K. Thank you.
very nice piece. certainly you are definitely connected to what you do. many in that realm are disconnected from it. i will say though, that ativan may be good in the very short term, it certainly is NOT in the long term.
Thanks, Don–one of the things I miss doing–did that while I was in college. Agree with you re.the Ativan–but would not have been an issue for this young man. I hate cancer.
i know what you mean about cancer. while i was in NC i found out that my brother’s wife had stage 4 colon cancer. one surgery so far and at present starting chemo. eventually a surgery to take out femme organs and put chemo inside her and close her up. i think that sounds right on tail end here. aggressive treatment plan.
Oh, I am so sorry. Please let me know how she is doing, OK?
i’m going to give it a little bit of time to see how she is handling the chemo. what’s it take about week or so to feel sickish from it. you’d probably know. are there different strengths too?
There are loads of different programs/protocols to be on, in all ranges of strengths. I just hope hers works. Not sure about how long it takes to feel sick, depends on the person and the protocol. Hopefully, it won’t be too bad for her.
thanx for the insight on this. now that i know that i can text him and find out how it is going and the protocol too. then i can spin it your way, and you can give me an overall analysis. that is if he will even know that. but we’ll see.
Yes, please do that.
A simple but oh so important gesture, far reaching in its impact. Like this one lots.
Nelle–thank you. I will never forget that night, that time, that conversation.
Oh Susan, how
I don’t know what happend, but I was saying how heartbreakingly sad. You are a wonderful person for giving that young man such a gift. God bless you, Susan.
I really could think of no other thing to do, when asked to stay, and have always been glad that I did. Blessings back.