Envisioning My Life at Seventy

 
Today, I retire.
Retirement is often a pseudo-haven, incarcerating the unaccomplished, the unfinished and the unforeseen realities. The predicament of retirement escapes nobody, and this old, crippled woman that I now am thinks of her legacy. The journey had involved much work, struggle and, at times, pain, but I had stood by Aristotle and his revered words about endurance being the greatest part of courage.
 
Distinguished, from everything and everyone, is the legacy

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It Was Not Enough

When your heart stopped, I was surrounded by people who did not know you. People who would not recognize your tired eyes, your weakened smile, the sheepish facial expressions that always accompanied your soft-spoken words. I had already started a new rotation at another hospital and was no longer a part of your care team, though I checked in periodically to see how you were doing.

When I received the news, there was no space to process you. I

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Illiterate

 
I could not read Don Quijote, nor you,
Yet three months pass there across a table.
“The recipe, please!” I ask, eyes widen.
Behind the kitchen stove, a soft response
In foreign tones, “Lo siento, querida.”
“But do not pity me,” says the smile. 
It was another beautiful day in Toledo, Spain, with the final petals on the chrysanthemums falling from the clinic balcony. I was in the community kitchen with

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The Final Showcase – When the Price Is Right

It was one of those mornings when the light penetrated a window with a fierceness that could drown even a hospital room in a 10-foot blanket of warmth. In room 5307, this brightness shed light on frailty. He felt warm, alone. Bony ends obviated their presence beneath crisp white linen.

I sat beside him, agonal respirations as last words. I shuffled between bedside and nursing station telemetry monitor, focused on the upper right screen. 70.

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Snake of Secrets

I did not know to ask for a bereavement day to mourn a baby I hadn’t told anyone existed. Since they did not know, how could I ask for comfort, acknowledgement of loss, special handling in the weeks following the miscarriage? Everyone at work felt mean and cruel and quick.

My husband hadn’t been particularly happy about the baby; we were just digging out from the first two, so I was pretending to be

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Protective Mechanism

Local EMS responded to the 911 call: “30-year old male who can’t walk.” Upon seeing his dire condition, they drove lights and sirens to the ER. I saw the paramedics wheeling their patient into Room 1 and thought the handsome, young man looked too healthy for the critical area. Was he a VIP patient expecting special treatment? I didn’t know whether to be alarmed or annoyed.  
Then I lifted the sheet and couldn’t palpate

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The Last Kleenex

Charlie, a fifty-year-old gay man and my patient for many years, comes for an office visit. His complaints are a cough and listlessness.

He is an outgoing, highly respected architect who teaches at a prominent university. He’s left few precious stones unturned in his life and has been remarkably successful. He has a wonderful, loving marriage.

To offer further insight into Charlie’s character and personality, some time ago he received treatment for a

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Authenticity Affirmed

I was a young, eager chaplain at a community hospital, completing rabbinical school. So eager, in fact, that I misread a referral regarding a patient who actually requested no chaplain visits. When I went to visit her, there was another woman with her. The patient then advised me that she didn’t want any chaplain visits. 

But she was kind and compassionate, and must have seen that I was a novice. She invited me to sit with

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Setting an Example

Morning rounds, on an August Tuesday. I’ve got two senior residents with me, along with two interns and a third-year student. We’re working our way through a list of patients scattered across several floors of the hospital. Most of them we had met just the day before. And a few, of course, were added overnight.

Beepers and cell phones shrill together, letting us know that one of our patients needs attention. We run up

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Voiceless

Throughout my adult life, I have tried to develop a strong voice—as a single mother, educator, writer and woman. This ability to speak for myself has made me feel impenetrable. Through self-expression, I have managed to survive the challenges of my life.

Then, in mid-July, I lost my voice—literally. I woke up with a severe case of laryngitis and now, six weeks later, still grapple with not being able to talk above a raspy whisper. My

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