Sunday, October 31, 2010

Cover me.

I remember this one time when I was talking to one of my Grady patients who was dying of AIDS:

"What can I do for you today?" I asked him.

"You can pray for me. By name."

"Ummm. . .okay." That was all I could eke out.

"Will you really?" he pressed. I still remember his gaunt face and hauntingly sad eyes. He was serious.

"I will, sir. I . . I will." I was serious, too.

Later on that afternoon when I was sitting in my office, I replayed that encounter. I thought about his request for me and my promise to do what he'd asked. Right then and there, I closed my eyes, clasped my hands and did just that. Prayed for him. By name. When I opened my eyes again, I felt good. Like I'd offered my patient something much more than a prescription or a diagnosis.

Here's the thing: That particular day, I'd felt so frustrated. I felt helpless in that patient's overall prognosis and like nothing we were doing for him was working. Every day, it seemed like there wasn't anything I could do for him. So this time, I admit that I was slightly relieved that he actually had a suggestion for me that I could at least consider: "You can pray for me." Whew. I think I can do that. But heal you? Cure you? That would be much harder. . . .

For the rest of the hospitalization, I kept it simple, just like his question. Every morning on rounds, I would try my best to not be distracted by anything. Then I'd just hold his delicate hand and ask, "How are you, my friend?"


I also remembered to pray for him. Not in just the "God bless all my patients at Grady" way that I had habitually done before. This time I prayed for him by name. Just as he'd asked. Now that I think of it, I kind of liked the added nudge to be specific.

Today I'm reflecting on all of the things we can do for people that go beyond prescriptions or medical knowledge or material objects. Sometimes our therapeutic alliances (and relationships in general) are strengthened by our authentic presence, be that physical, emotional or even spiritual.

There's this song I like called "Cover me." It's about asking a person to pray for you. It immediately came to mind when my patient made his request. I like to think that "covering" each other goes far beyond prayer. . . . .


Regardless of what you believe, here is something I'm pondering today that I hope you will, too:
 Oftentimes when people ask to be kept in your thoughts and prayers, they mean it. I know this patient did.

Remember to cover me
That I might go in peace
Remember to keep me lifted
That I might go in spirit
Keep my name on your lips
When you pray remember this:
I need you to cover me.

Remember to cover me
That I might go in peace
Remember to keep me lifted
That I might go in spirit
Keep my face on your mind
When you go to God next time
I need you to cover me.

from "Cover Me" by 21:03 (hear it here.)

~ to my dear friend and fellow Grady doctor. . . .you know who you are. Your face is on my mind, my friend. Know that I am covering you. I am.

1 comment:

"Tell me something good. . . tell me that you like it, yeah." ~ Chaka Khan

Related Posts with Thumbnails