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fostering the humanistic practice of medicine publishing personal accounts of illness and healing encouraging health care advocacy

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Things My Wife Left in the ICU

A pacemaker and defibrillator

Sheets pressed hard with suffering

Seven fingers and one arm, gangrenous dead

Unknown liters of blood

Failed kidneys

Scarred lungs

A sclerosed heart

A contagion of bacteria

Two daughters, one husband, one sister




Her life

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"On Being Different"

Paul Rousseau is a semi-retired palliative-care physician and writer.

About the Poem

“This brief poem is about my wife dying in an ICU, an ICU where she spent the final fourteen days of her life. The poem is meant to be brief, like her life, and uncomfortable, like sickness and death.”


26 thoughts on “Things My Wife Left in the ICU”

  1. The combination of concrete and abstract details in this list poem have been combined so well to make the reader see the aftermath and feel the anguish and loss. Powerful writing. I’m so very sorry for your loss.


  2. Such profound loss and grief encapsulated tightly in your words. As a fellow writer, poet, and retired physician, thank you for sharing your pain and love in such a poignant manner.

  3. Thank you for writing such a poem about your personal loss and grief. May you find comfort in the messages of strangers who are touched by your writing.

  4. Your profound loss resonates deeply within me and I thank you for having the courage and ability to find the words to express such unspeakable grief. My husband died in the ICU 15 yrs. ago – this month. I looked at him as I left the room, knowing that I would never see him again, and thought the thoughts you so eloquently put to paper.
    We do indeed pay a heavy price for love. The grief is commensurate.
    I am so sorry.

    1. Yes, the price is heavy. Grief is stitched into the fabric of life, always present, waiting, ready to pounce without notice. A flash of memory brings a remembrance, but it may also bring tears. My condolences on your loss.

      1. Clarissa Pinkola Estes speaks of Mexican mythologies around birth and death being in the same crucible; death walks with us and watches over us and is part of us throughout our whole life so that when it comes our time it really isn’t a surprise if we walk that way throughout our life. Another perspective/worldview.
        Your palpable loss stirs that understanding of death being with us always. Thank you for writing this powerful testament to your love.

  5. Like others here have said, your poem strikes a deep cord. I was especially touched by the line “sheets pressed hard with suffering”. The last battle in life can be the hardest for those in its midst and those left behind. Thank you.

  6. Profound. Thank you. Made me want to list what our son left in his recliner when he died from bone cancer. It’s been 10 years. The loss is still right on the tip of my tongue and burned into my eyes for the world to see.

    1. My sincere condenses on the loss of your son. It may be ten years, but as you well know, it could be twenty or thirty, the loss never leaves, and grief festers underneath the surface of life.

  7. The promise of love is loss and grief. Profound and true. Thank you for reminding us.
    Hopefully the sweeter memories will win.

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