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Oncologists like myself are no strangers to death. It is all too familiar. We give our patients the best that medicine has to offer; we cure them if we can. When our efforts fail, we relieve their pain and ease their suffering. And when they pass away, we grieve. With their friends, colleagues, family members, partners and spouses, we grieve.
Almost by definition, a time of mourning is a time of gathering. Both to grieve
Ruth Bavetta ~
One and a half tubes of smörgåskaviar, most
of a jar of blueberry jam, a full jar of lingonberries.
Four sets of blue plaid pajamas–God forbid
I should have gotten him red. Six pairs
of reading glasses, going back
in five-year increments. Hearing-aid
batteries stashed by the lamp.
Three packages of adult diapers.
Our marriage certificate.
The rest of the
Mitch Kaminski ~
It had been a hectic day in the urgent-care clinic of my large family practice, and I was starting to worry about the time: My last two patients had put me thirty minutes behind.
I felt relieved when I saw the note for the next patient: “Seventy-four-year-old female with UTI.”
A urinary-tract infection! This should be quick and uncomplicated….
I walked into the room to find a well-dressed older
Martha Carlough ~
In medical school
I learned the particular sensitivity
of the breastbone
The rub of a knuckle
awakens even one deeply asleep
beckoning back to the present moment
Grief has the potential
to show us how cramped–
even deadened–we’ve become
Chest riven with pain
my fingers are now free
to explore the stories
Scott Janssen ~
“You need to get here now!” The nurse whispers anxiously. It’s after midnight. One of our hospice patients has just died at home, and her husband is threatening to shoot himself when the funeral home shows up.
“Has the funeral home been called?” I ask.
“Does he have a gun or weapon?”
“We’re out in the country. There are deer heads on the wall.”
Sara Bybee ~
It’s 2:02 pm when my pager beeps. I pull it out and read: “Juan may have just passed. Going in now.”
As a social worker in the region’s only cancer specialty hospital, I provide emotional support for patients and their families–including talking about their wishes for end-of-life care.
Juan is a sixty-five-year-old Ecuadorian man with stage 4 pancreatic cancer. I’ve known him for about a year. Polite and easy