“He’s just expired,” said the nurse as I approached Ray’s room in the large inner-city hospital where I work as a patient advocate. “And his wife has just arrived. Why don’t you go in?”
I found Natalie bent over Ray’s body. His hollow cheek was drenched with her tears.
“I’m so sor–“
“I told him yesterday to talk to Jesus,” Natalie interrupted, speaking quickly. “I told him if the two of them decided it was time for him to go, then it was okay with me. I guess they had their talk,” she said, glancing at Ray as though expecting an answer.
I’m walking very slowly with my dad down the produce aisle at the local supermarket, past the colorful waxed apples, Mexican mangoes and Rainier cherries, and imagining my life’s blood trickling onto the floor from an invisible wound.
As I pass by the misting system spraying the bins of green, red, yellow and orange peppers, past the lady reaching for carrots, past the stock guy balancing the heirloom tomatoes into a precarious stack, I want to scream. The sense of loss is overpowering.
But no one notices as I inwardly watch my life’s blood–my father, age eighty-six–flow away, here in the grocery store.
I feel as if we’ve walked these aisles together forever. When I was a child, my father worked in a supermarket. He taught me how to bag groceries, cut meat, fill displays and manage people. One of my earliest memories is of riding on the checkout conveyor belt; I couldn’t have been more than three. Now, decades later, we shop together again. Here in this store, I feel the passage of time, and the forces of change, most acutely.
About the artist:
“I work as a primary care doctor at a clinic in the South Bronx. I believe it is part of my job, as a doctor, to advocate for my patients’ health both inside the exam room and out on the streets. I have enjoyed taking photographs since I was a little kid. After a long hiatus, I reconnected with street photography in the fall of 2014 through the Bronx Documentary Center. I particularly enjoy using photography to highlight the strength and beauty of a borough more often known by outsiders for its poverty and struggles. And I continue to see photography as both a creative outlet and as a tool for social change. I have been collecting photos on a new website, jonathangiftos.com, where prints are available in exchange for a donation to the Bronx Documentary Center.”
About the artwork:
“This photo was taken while standing with South Bronx Unite in protest …
I watched her
fling and tie
as if doves
might flutter forth.
Her steady voice
as if it were
an easy thing
I was a first-year medical student, starting my first afternoon at an outpatient clinic as part of an introductory course in clinical medicine. My white coat was freshly washed; I had a rainbow of pens in one coat pocket, and my shiny name tag dangled from the other. I only hoped that I was as prepared as I looked.
I entered Mrs. Carr’s room. A fifty-five-year-old woman, she sat gingerly at the edge of her chair, looking ready to get up at any moment, as if the appointment were already over. She gave me a cursory glance, then went back to folding and refolding the bus-ticket stub in her hands.
I asked a well-rehearsed question: “What brings you to our clinic?”
“Chocolate cake,” she answered.
Kevin Olney / Scott Newport
About the contributor:
Scott Newport, a volunteer with the Patient and Family Centered Care advisory council of C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, in Ann Arbor, serves both in his state and nationally as an advocate for families with sick children. “My biggest passion is family mentoring, and I have a special interest in supporting dads. I always know I’ve made a connection when I get an email that reads, ‘Hey Scott, are you going to be up at the hospital this weekend?’ I believe that until we make a personal connection with a family, it’s almost impossible to have those important and often difficult discussions. Sometimes, though, it’s just talking about building fences.”
About the artwork:
“One Sunday last year I sat in a hospital room with a young guy named Kevin Olney as he struggled to deal with his daughter’s serious illness. A cowboy, he had traveled from out west to bring his daughter to …