Saturday, February 8, 2014


The first thing I become cognizant of is motion: the beating of the heart, the contraction of the muscles as I place the phone back onto the base or into my pocket, the shallow breaths that willow past the lips.  Only then do I contemplate notifying the family and giving my condolences.

Death has followed me from childhood.  Not as a specter lurking in the darkened corners but more like a willing companion in a yet undisclosed game of strategy.  And as far as professions go, there is a false intimacy in doing what I do.  To experience the aftertaste of mortality on such a regular basis without partaking in the bitter nectar, to place the little white cancer stick to ones lips and yet never inhale.

We are disconnected, I and those I tend to.   It is never so apparent than in those seconds after the last breath is taken.  There is a undeniable stillness in death. Anyone who has been present in the moment immediately can tell the difference.  There is a transition from the living, breathing, and circulating to inanimate object.  No matter how much we slow our bodies, blood still pumps, oxygen exchanges, and diaphragms pull down.

We look to the ephemeral, talk of such things as spirit and soul.  I am at a loss in such conversations.  Because as the warmth returns, I take a deep breath and make the phone call.  I stumble through the words I have mumbled so many times.

I am so sorry for your loss.  It was an honor and a privilege to take care of your loved one.  If there is anything I can do to make this better..

But in reality my oft repeated words carry a certain hollowness.  In an ocean of uncertainty they are merely tiny flecks of wood bobbing up and down in the great vastness.

They are utterances, vocalizations, vibrations that remind both speaker and listener that we are not yet standing upon the abyss.

They are motion.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"We look to the ephemeral, talk of such things as spirit and soul. I am at a loss in such conversations."

Perhaps at a loss, Jordan, but you are among the most soul-filled of the physicians I follow online. You notice and articulate these things, this subtle evidence of the spirit having moved. You may only know to name it as death and the ending of a life, but faith promises it is the beginning of something even more beautiful. Keep watching and keep telling us about it.