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Because I could not stop for Death...: Death - never something you get used to.
Posted by Elizabeth L, Oct 26, 2012. 1055 views. ID = 5971

Because I could not stop for Death...

Posted by Elizabeth L, Oct 26, 2012. 1055 views. ID = 5971
This post was written in 0 minutes.
I'll warn you - this is a depressing story. It's not really meant to be - more of a decompressing, trying to understand. I know death is merely a step to Heaven, and I firmly believe that God chooses the time and place of death for us all, according to what is best for us. There are no accidents, there are no lives 'cut off too short' - just the almighty hand of a loving God, taking us to His side, where we've belonged all along. But it can still be hard for us to understand. Accept, yes - understand, maybe not.

Last year we had a bad run of really sick patients and deaths. I finally began to understand the drive that keeps medical professionals forever on the search for new cures, new medicines - you fight, and fight, and still lose patients. It's life...what irony.
This post has been awarded 15 stars by 3 readers.
This post is Part 13 of a writing series titled Life as an Interpreter.

Death isn't something you expect to rub elbows with at 25 ... or at 75 for that matter. But then again, Death isn't a something; it's a nothing. It's a gone, disappeared, vacuum, hole, missing. It's a negative, a taking away. And lately it's been putting a lot of holes in my world.

There's the obvious kind. He was in his late 30s, and when I walked in, I didn't realize he was there at first. You see, I've never seen a body bag. Covered up to his neck, his face looked normal, except for a yellowish tint I'd like to attribute to the lighting but couldn't. So that's it. You're declared...passed over...gone. He wasn't there. I couldn't get over the fact that he, this man with the thick dark hair and young face, wasn't Just his body. Empty.

It's a little easier somehow and yet much harder when you're patient is 29 weeks old - gestational. Easier to know he never suffered and won't have a life in Children's Hospital as he surely would have, had he survived. Harder, because he was the boy Mamá had wanted so badly after 3 girls. Easier to see his sweet, peaceful face and curly hair; harder to see his little organs and heart outside his abdominal cavity and his misshapen legs. Harder because he wasn't here anymore either and Mom wanted to know why. Harder than I expected.

Little baby girls born full term shouldn't be perfect and purple. Little baby girls shouldn't look like they're breathing because their body is expelling the air that tried to save their life. Little baby girls shouldn't survive a pregnancy to be killed in the last 10 minutes by a silent, rupturing placenta.

Then there's the not so obvious kind. I watched her breathe, in and out, rise and fall. I saw her warm, rosy skin. Her long, healthy, inky black hair. And I interpreted the term 'brain dead' to her family. She wasn't there either, you see. It seemed like it, but SHE wasn't there anymore. It was time to let go.

The phone call to Mexico for the family of a young man who came in half gone and was now a living shell - that wasn't easy either. He's not really here, they wanted me to say. He's just a remnant now. It's time to disconnect. I wanted to stamp my foot as I took the phone receiver, and stop them - he's still alive, the body still works, don't turn him off! but in my heart, I knew they were right. Death was already here and he'd left us. He wasn't coming back.

And of course there are what I call perimeter deaths. I watched them working on the young Asian boy two beds over in the trauma bay. I wondered how his surgery went. Then two hours later, I passed the residents, and heard snatches. "He didn't make it out." "Traffic accident..." "..tragic..."

There was our 30s something patient sent home on hospice, Raul, having fought the best we could against his HIV and stomach cancer. We heard four weeks later that they didn't need to visit anymore. Another hole.

I didn't get 'death' as a kid - it was just grief to me. I left the dying part out and saw only the grief. But now I see it eating away, taking away, people I have known. It's just something that happens. And maybe that's what's so scary. Even here, in a hospital, it just happens. I always had this fuzzy, comforting feeling in the back of my mind, that no matter how sick someone got, you could just hook them up to the right machines and ride them through it until they could start recovering. I knew it wasn't true, but I think it was one of those protective mechanisms - my head knew it was impossible, but my heart really wanted to believe it. It's what we hear in the media, it's what we debate about in the newspapers, the line between living on a ventilator and extending dying by using one. Surely, now, in the 21st century, we can keep people alive! But we can't. And we shouldn't.

Tides are such a cliche, but I suddenly understand why they are appropriate for describing life. My world is filled with patients and they rise and fall like the tides, one moment full of familiar waters and the next bringing up new treasures. You can't stop it, I can't stop it - I shouldn't. But somehow, it's always a little sore, like rubbing over an old wound...more of a ... molestia, a trouble, a bothering. Yes, la molestia de la muerte.

Copyright 2012 Elizabeth L. All rights reserved. has been granted non-exclusive rights to display this work. For permission to reprint this item, please contact the author.

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This post has been awarded 15 stars by 3 readers.
This post is Part 13 of a writing series titled Life as an Interpreter.


Oct 30, 2012
My life this fall has been full of death... My mom's 19 year old cat ran away several weeks ago... My bunny I had had for a week died of fright... My ram lamb died after a week of trying to save him from cold and weakness. But in the midst of this, there is life. Blossoming, blooming, growing in my heart. All the aching spots are being put next to life... The pair of kittens we are getting... My new bunny, Elsie... The joy of thinking and planning for lambs next spring... My new cousins... My life this fall has been full of life...
   ~Posted by MissAnnie, Oct 30, 2012

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