Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Cross my heart.

*written with my patient's permission.
At Grady today on rounds:

Late afternoon sunshine is pouring into the room. My patient's face is illuminated by strips of light beaming through blinds and interrupted by shadows. . . . .

I sit beside my patient's bed with one very simple plan: To simply hold his hand and be there. That's all. It is, at this point, the only thing I have to offer. . . . .

"You know what, doc?"

"What's that, my friend?"

"Every night when I fall asleep, I keep my fingers crossed. Tight. . . ."

"You do?"

"Yeah. . . .I do."


"I just cross them. . .just hoping. . . you know? Praying. . .you know?"


"I know."

"Hoping I can cross 'em tight enough so things'll be different when I wake up. . . ."


". . . .that I will wake up."


I hold his hand in the quiet of that moment. There are no words that I can think of so I just rub his hand with my thumb. Finally, he falls asleep.  I rise and close the blinds; his face is now covered with shadows. Yet somehow it is still illuminated. 


I decide that tonight I'm going to cross my fingers, too.


  1. Tonight, I too will cross my fingers for your patient & two individuals I know who despite all the medicine, intelligence, hard work & love being provided for them are living their final days....Today I had a 92 year old patient tell me that she is ready...and she would like her death to spare the death of a young person...someone who has yet to truely live...

    I admire your efforts to speak honestly with this man & your respect for his decisions. When I began my work in healthcare I thought, like most, that death was going to be the most difficult part. But I've realized that the walking with patients & their families as they prepare and experience a loved one dying is far more trying.

  2. You sound like you need this. It reminded me of your patient.

    If we must die, let it not be like hogs
    Hunted and penned in an inglorious spot,
    While round us bark the mad and hungry dogs,
    Making their mock at our accursed lot.
    If we must die, O let us nobly die,
    So that our precious blood may not be shed
    In vain; Then even the monsters we defy
    Shall be constrained to honor us though dead!
    O kinsmen! We must meet the common foe!
    Though far outnumbered let us show us brave,
    And for their thousand blows deal one death-blow!
    What though before us lies the open grave?
    Like men we’ll face the murderous, cowardly pack,
    Pressed to the wall, dying, but fighting back!

    Countee Cullen

  3. Anon 1 ~ Thank you for your kind words and for sharing your experience. And for crossing your fingers.

    Anon 2 ~ Wow. It was so kind of you to take the time to type that lovely comment. Really. Thank you for that--I did need it. . .

    "Yet do I marvel" at the kindness of other human beings. Thanks. ;)


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

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