Skip to main content

Jake Stein, MS3, Internal Medicine

The last time I saw her, she was bubbly. Her glasses on, her hair pulled back like she was at home in her living room, entertaining guests. I have no doubt she would have offered me something if she had anything more than the bland tray of hospital food. She smiled graciously, openly. But then, she even wore her hospital gown with grace, or frivolity, or a little of both. We shared a good ol’ fashioned southern goodbye, drawn out into a final stanza of the conversation, if not a whole separate chapter.

Today she hardly looks at me at all. Her face is gaunt, though it can’t be so – I last saw her five days ago. Her eyes are distant, glassy. Whether she is clouded by narcotics, feeble from her frighteningly low blood pressure, or deep in prayer, it’s hard to know.

She doesn’t complain. Blood is pooling in her abdomen from the medicine we gave her, her kidneys are failing, and her heart is skipping and tapping out a syncopated rhythm that never does seem to find the beat. She gives me a wan smile. I am thankful.

I scribble, percuss, and scroll, as if these things will help us. I am powerless here, and we both know it. I take her hand and she clutches it tightly. “I’ll see you soon,” I say, and she nods. Her gaze drifts away again. Hard to know.