Monday, October 6, 2008

The last night

Some thoughts on the recent death of one of my patients, my last night in the ICU. He was young, but had been sick his entire life. Although he had been sick for so long, we had hope, he was listed for a transplant, and had a spirit that made it seem like he wouldn't let death take him.

I simultaneously want to hear it and block it out.
Wanting to compartmentalize like a good dr, take care of other patients
But at the same time, wanting to immerse myself in the realness of their pain
Feel it with them, feel the rhythm of their mournful wailing
Feel the depth of it resonate in my soul.
For once I don’t want to be sterile, efficient, getting things done, checking off boxes

Three women sit at his bedside, more crowded near the door
It is reminiscent of a biblical scene
Their hands, rubbing oil into his young arms
As his head, suddenly lifeless, remains unmoving, eyes rolled back
Just a sliver of white visible, in the slightly parted lids
Reveals that his soul is already departed.
The hum in the corner, white noise of the machine, moving breaths in and out
The shell of his body, slowly expanding and contracting

Like a thief in the night, sneaking away his soul, while we were off guard,
Humbling us again and letting us know loudly that we can’t control
Looking to the skies, our faith again affirmed by our need, our abrupt knowledge that we are not God.

I pause for a moment, and allow myself to listen through the wall
The chosen three are singing
I wonder how they choose, how they know
Their deep, soulful voices harmonize,
Originating from the depths of their souls
It is almost too beautiful to listen to
If you heard it, it would break your heart.

They continue their vigil all night
Anointing his body
Singing, wailing, as their own hearts break
The morning rays break through the slats of the blinds
And they know it is time, they stop their singing and sobbing
The room is quiet
The hum of the machine stops
The air stops moving.
His body stops it’s cycle – up and down with the machine.
And it is done.
Solitary tears fall from their eyes.
They whisper to him:

“You are finally free of this body”
“You are home now”

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