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Earth to Earth

You would have loved the simple maple box.
Corners smoothed and lid sealed tight,
we haven’t tried to pry it open yet.
It weighs more than I would have guessed,

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Grieving in the Age of Zoom

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

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Aftermath

Drip.

Drip.

Drip.

It’s 8:00 pm.

I’m staring at the IV tubing. We forgot to stop the fluids.

I’m standing in the resuscitation room alongside the naked, broken body of a teenage male. Unable to break my gaze on that dripping IV line, thinking, We’re going to flood him.

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Early Morning. Again

I sit on the sofa,
alone in the sunroom,
stirring a cup of mocha-coffee,

Soon it turns cold.
Your mother’s quilt, an heirloom
pulled off our bed,

wraps my shoulders.
The corner touching my cheek
is soaked in wild grief,

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What’s Left Over

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

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A Tingling Sensation

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

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Riven

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

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Fear No Evil

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.

“No.”

“Does he have a gun or weapon?”

“We’re out in the country. There are deer heads on the wall.”

I

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Epilogue

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

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