I was nervous. I had never been this close to someone who was about to die. I introduced myself, but the patient was non-responsive. I told her that I was going to sit with her and that I would stay for a few hours. As I sat down, I noticed her breathing–it was irregular, and each breath sounded like she was slowly and painfully drowning. Almost trying to distract myself from her breathing, I studied her face. The structure of her face–her jaw- and cheekbones–was well defined. My eyes wandered from her head to her shoulders and along her arms, and then I saw her hands.
Month: April 2017
My adrenaline starts pumping. This new patient will be my first time running a code. I can’t help but be excited.
I claim my place at the head of the bed and start setting up my airway equipment. My brain is methodically running through the ACLS algorithms I have memorized.
Her sister sat expressionless next to her lifeless body, and when I walked into the room, she began crying.
My tears swell. I tell her how sorry I am, and how brave she was. She tells me that her sister died “so quickly and peacefully” and that “it was her time to go.” I am grateful she surrendered to the inevitable.
I leave to complete my documentation. Conflicted, I fight tears. I want to cry for her loss and for my loss. But, I am new here. I must make a good impression. What will they think of me? Unprofessional. Emotional. Unstable.
I walked through my mother’s madness
in a coat of hungry colors.
Her eyes did not take me in. I was a child.
To win her, I hung by my knees from low branches
of the family tree, voicing nursery rhymes
from the hallowed text of her delusions.
When they took her away,
I was older, careful. I hid my heart
behind a dozen jars of her best grape jelly
and drew ugly faces in my algebra notes.
When she came home,
I had no space to give her.
No, no, not in the kitchen;
my kitchen now.
Not in the blue chairs where she longed
at last to sit down, light up and chat.
About the artist:
Roberta Beary is the 2017 Roving Ambassador for the Haiku Foundation, and haibun editor for Modern Haiku. The author of two award-winning poetry collections, The Unworn Necklace and Deflection, she writes to connect with the disenfranchised, to let them know they are not alone. A photographer since her Polaroid Swinger days, she now uses her iPad to link her poems with images. More of her visual work can be viewed on Twitter @shortpoemz.
About the artwork:
“This is a photograph of my mother that I took a few months before her death in September 2013. She is with my dog Winnie. I was my mother’s caretaker for five years. She spent the last two years of her life in the memory-care wing of an assisted-living facility near my home. I would often visit her with …
My thirty-one year-old son had a newer laptop than mine and an iPhone 6. My iPhone 5 was a hand-me-down from him. (Prior to that, my iPhone 3 was given to me by a former resident, now friend, who upgraded to a 5 and was tired of mocking me for my flip phone.)
I have been paying my son’s cell phone bill since he died on 1/16/17. I told myself I would do this until I could get it backed up so I could have his contacts, pictures and music (most of the music that I do not even like) until I can face going through the contents. And then I could expropriate it to be my phone. It’s the same with his laptop: I don’t want to lose what’s on there.
You were the one who felt lost, who longed for professional advice and support.