As I write this note, my mother is dying in a hospital room in Southern France. She is alone.
Visitors are not allowed. My elderly father is quarantined in his home, an ancient four-story stone house that dates almost from the Middle Ages. In two months they would have celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary.
But that is not to be.
There are no doctors or nurses huddled around my mother’s bed. No family or friends, no palliative care specialists or counselors who know what to say when it’s the end, when no one can really say goodbye, and the last communication is a final “I love you” from my father transmitted to her, maybe, through the medical ward’s secretary.
Decades of my own experience with death and dying taught me many things, not the least of which is to live in the now; to cherish each and every moment because you never know if it may be your last. I try to imagine that somewhere, there is a nurse, or maybe a young Intern, who will go to my mother’s bedside, just to be there. I remember sitting with teenagers at the end of their lives, and with grandmothers who prayed for death to release them from the pain of metastatic cancer. I remember saying, “I’ll see you in the morning,” to that favorite patient of mine, and being called after midnight with the news he didn’t make it.
Medicine is, I think, the most noble of all professions. It is a profession based on trust, and love, and generosity, and grace. It is most noble when the ego is removed from all considerations; when one person sits with another and waits…and waits…until transition occurs…and a tear flows, even though one may barely know the patient’s name.
I hope my mother has someone like that when the moment comes; behind closed doors, with masks, and gowns, and whatever else they need to wear.
I know she will. In fact, I am sure of it.
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