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In November of my intern year, I had trouble finding the sun. It was dark when I woke up for work, and it was dark when work was done and I headed back home. I’d picked up the service on the cancer ward from an intern named Bob, and Bob had left me six handwritten pages on the subject of Jim Franklin.
And this was the deal: Jim Franklin, thirty-seven years
Minor chest pains that woke me early one morning–and which did not go away three, four, five, six hours later–landed me flat on my back at a local emergency room, a perversely comforting beep beep beep issuing from the monitor hanging precariously over my head.
Frankly, I didn’t really think that I was having a heart attack–as a former EMT, a devoted watcher of medical television, and a cultural cousin of Woody
Evenings in the Sloan-Kettering ICU were starkly lit–nowhere to hide from the glare, bloodshot eyes trained on blinking lights, buzzing machines, masked men and women passing soundlessly through sliding glass doors, and little but hours and hours of bright, eerie luminosity ahead.
By contrast, the days then were dark. No comfort to be found in the sunrise or in that old salve about everything looking better in the morning. My wife and kids
It happened one wintry night in 1965. I was in my third year of medical school during a rotation on the pulmonary service.
My supervising intern had been busy all evening admitting a dozen people in various stages of respiratory distress; they were suffering from ailments ranging from flu to double pneumonia.
It was my job to collect each patient’s sputum and culture it on a Petri dish, which would
I tried to focus on the chart in front of me, but it may as well have been written in Russian. I’d been awake for thirty-two hours, and my brain, thick with fatigue, refused to cooperate. I knew I shouldn’t be working, but I was too proud, too stubborn, too something to admit that I wasn’t coping.
On the first day of my neurosurgical rotation, the resident I was replacing had told me, “Ten-to-fourteen-hour days,
My mother’s mother was more a force of nature than a person. Chablis in hand, stockings bagging a little over her solid, practical navy pumps, she delivered her opinions without the slightest sugar-coating. She used words like “simply” and “absolutely” a lot. “He is quite simply the worst mayor we’ve ever had.” “She had absolutely no business having four children.” My cousins and I all listened and quaked, hoping the wrath would not
By this time next week, my mother may be dead.
In a sense, she’s been dying for a long time. This leg of her journey is the last in a decades-long trek with Parkinson’s disease.
She lies there, her head small and delicate on the pillow. Her hair is a wispy white thatch; her throat muscles are rigid, as if she’s just lifted a huge barbell. But her breaths come slowly,
At a recent religious service I attended with Maman, my 87-year-old mother, I watched her fumbling attempts to find hymn number 123, “Spirit of Life,” in the hymnal. I held my book up, opened to the appropriate page, so that we both could sing from it.
She glanced up momentarily, tightened her lips, hunched forward and resumed turning pages, finally arriving at the song when the congregation was singing the second verse,