Pulse newmasthead 10th anniv 2252x376px

Welcome to Pulse

Telling the personal story of health care...by and for everyone--patients, health professionals and students of narrative medicine.

Subscribe/Energize


new subscription

Join the 11,000+ who receive Pulse weekly



energize subscription 
Energize your subscription
with a contribution and
keep
Pulse vibrant



 
 
Readers tell us their stories...
 
morevoicesblue
 
This month... Making Assumptions

 
My father, a pathologist, was diagnosed with late-stage gastric cancer soon after I was married. He knew exactly what the diagnosis meant, but he enjoyed life for another two years. Then he stopped responding to treatment and began to decline over the winter. He and my mother were happy to learn I was pregnant with their first grandchild, due in June.
 
Ten days after Liz was born at the end of May, we rushed over to visit my parents, since my father was by then too weak to travel. Clearly he had waited to meet Liz. He held her in his arms, although he had to sit to do so, and he was thrilled. He asked us to come back soon.

As soon as we returned from this visit, I got a call from Dad’s hospice team saying that he was dying, and it was time to come back home. The family arrived and found Dad in bed, not really conscious. We waited, and waited, and Dad continued to linger. Finally, after a week, my husband and brother had to go back to work. I stayed with my mother and my two-month-old colicky baby.

For another week, I strolled Liz around the streets of our old neighborhood. Finally, one afternoon as we strolled, I began to pray for Dad’s release. The prayer that came into my head was the Nunc dimittis, from the Book of Common Prayer: "O Lord now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to Thy word." We strolled for several hours while I recited the prayer in my head. It felt soothing.

That night, I kissed Dad goodnight, and saw that his face had changed. Late at night the house suddenly became very cold, and the furnace rattled on, although it was August. The hospice nurse came to tell me that Dad had died.

Later, I looked up the origin of the prayer. I learned that the Nunc dimittis is the prayer that Simeon, a devout Jew, prayed in the second chapter of the Gospel of Luke. God had promised Simeon that he wouldn’t die until he met the Messiah. He prayed the Nunc dimittis as he held baby Jesus in his arms, in the Temple.
 
I also found a number of famous paintings illustrating Simeon's story. When I look at Rembrandt's painting today, I see on Simeon's face the same look of satisfaction as my father's, looking at the grandchild he had waited for.

Christine Parkhurst
Framingham, Massachusetts
 

Encounters

mainencounterspicEncounters, our latest feature: Patients talk about their healthcare experiences and share stories about their lives outside the doctor's office.

Latest Comments

  • Dear Nurse
    ilene Corina
    Though this is a wonderful letter and may be thought provoking for nurses as a great reminder, it is ...

    Read more...

     
  • Dear Nurse
    Pris Campbell
    I would love to tuck that letter in my purse should I be admitted somewhere.

    Read more...

     
  • Pharmacy Visit
    Cordon Bittner
    Medical practice has often been referred to as a calling. Due in part to burnout and in part to ...

    Read more...

Pulse Links