Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Old Ways

It's funny that I happened to see it on Thanksgiving morning.

Sarah Liston was well into her eighties when she walked into my office for the first time.  Her legal blindness was only a small impediment to her daily functioning.  She breezed through the door with calm and confidence.  Her monthly visits became a unique pleasure in my busy schedule.  Over the years I realized I was one in a small number of connections to the outside world.

She had a few friends here and there.  She had long since stopped visiting her ophthalmologist formerly, but they lunched on a regular basis.  Painfully past trying to fix her vision, the much younger woman offered companionship instead.

As Sarah became more and more debilitated with age, I worried about who would take care of her.  She had no children or relatives.  Her husband died decades ago.  We spent time talking about what would become of her things when she was gone.  She had a luxurious house and a comfortable bank account with no one to leave it to. 

Once Sarah remarked how she had given an expensive peace of jewelry to her ophthalmologist.  At first feeling unseemly, I eventually warmed to the idea.  The young woman had become more a friend than a physician.  And in some ways, I was learning to fulfill the same role.  Only with experience was I becoming aware that the greatest gift we give others, patients or friends, is the love and respect that resides in our hearts.

Sarah's health was turning.  We planned for her death as if it were a trip yet to be taken.  When the time came, she was comfortable.  A few weeks prior she had my nurse take a picture of us in the exam room.  She framed it and sent it over with one of her caregivers.  I was staring at the picture when the call came.

Five years to the date, on Thanksgiving morning, I was thumbing through the financials of my local hospital system (that comes in the mail annually).  I scanned through the donor information looking for names of people I know.  And there it was at the top.  Five hundred thousand dollars given by the Sarah Liston memorial fund.

I guess Sarah figured out what to do with her money after all. 

On this of all days, I felt like she was thanking me.  Thanking me for being the face of this medical system for which she decided to donate her life savings.

Better yet, she was sending a late reminder. She was pushing me to ignore the current upheaval faced by our backwards health care system. 

Mocking me. 

Tempting me to hold on to the old ways.

No comments: