Class of 2017
I hate the way some people die
When no one’s there to scream or cry
I hate the way they die alone
As I stand nearby, face turned to stone
I know I can’t cry when they die
I shouldn’t feel this. It isn’t right.
They tell me off whenever I do
I must be strong. I can’t cry, too.
I mustn’t fall apart, they say,
As they turn their heads and look away
We’re all pretending not to cry
But shouldn’t someone, when a patient dies?
I hate the way she said to me
“Doctor, help me. I can’t breathe.”
I hate the way I stood by the door
And watched until she breathed no more
I felt my heart break a million times
Because no one else was there to cry
And when they came to take her away
I dried my eyes, and went on with my day
I hate the way I always run late
I hear them whining about the wait
I hate the way they roll their eyes
And call my excuses blatant lies
But I know that deep behind their sighs
Is innocence — they didn’t see her die
And I am glad that they don’t know
Just how some die here, all alone
And they don’t see the tears I hold back
Because of the “courage” and “strength” that I lack
…but if I’m alone on the day that I die
Do you think somebody will pause there, and cry?
Dr. Diane Kelsall
Thanks Beatrice for this thoughtful poem. When I was a PGY1, one of my senior residents had a policy that no patient should die alone. And so, members of the medical team (medical students, residents) were assigned to sit with dying patients who had no family or friends. We would hold their hands. talk with them (unconscious or not) and ensure that their passing was as peaceful as possible. At times, this could be frightening, especially the first time I experienced a patient with the Cheyne-Stokes respiration pattern, but I learned a lot from that resident and from these experiences about the importance of caring and dignity in the midst of death.