two patients, one day

two patients, one day

one day, two visits
two patients near the end of life…

new georgia, augusta, st. george…
he could name them all
the islands he’d hopped
with the merchant marines in world war II
refueling ships, on the lookout for jap subs
never once felt afraid he said

now 95, he said it again
i’ve lived a good life, i’ve had it good
if i could have my wish
i’d just close my eyes tonight and not wake up
fear didn’t enter in
there in his comfortable home
a sense of peace, an air of contentment
children with him (now retired themselves)
listening to his stories again and again
laughing, adding commentary, patient
did you put your sugar in your tea, dad?

said he’s thought long and hard about his life
in the end, life’s a stranger, he told me
doesn’t know if he’ll make it to that better place
as a firefighter he used to carry burnt bodies
from the rubble and work with the coroner on them
made him wonder a little about god
and how sure some people are
that they’ve got it all figured out
while he described a life of service to others
that puts occasional samaritans like me to shame
and besides, he could quote the 23rd psalm
said he was keeping that one handy
just in case st. peter asked for his credentials

i prayed for him
sure as i could be that god loves this man

young girl, mid-20s, looks about 13
not a wrinkle not a flaw
tiny little thing, a sparrow, a sprite
in the hospital bed her skin a telltale yellow
she filled that skin with drink
for as long as anyone can remember
difficult child, prodigal, wastrel
but grandpa’s there, holding her hand

and grandma’s talking a mile a minute
hinting at their troubles
but not wanting to appear disreputable
it’s clear, i get it
i allow her that dignity
who the hell wants to be here?
with this? with her like this?

i make my way around grandma
and sit by the bed
i hold the tiny one’s slight hand
so soft so soft
quietly i pray for a peace
she may never have known
or maybe once, when she was a child
she felt it on a summer day
her twirly dress making a circle
of joy above her dancing feet
as she spun
and fell down in the grass breathless
so soft so soft

sure as i can be that god loves this girl
i say to her, now rest…

26 thoughts on “two patients, one day

  1. I have been in that seat and watched the departure. It is a most holy place and you are blessed to be there. I would hug you if I could.


  2. This morning the news in our local newspaper was that 18 residents of a small nursing home in our area died from COVID in the last two weeks. They hadn’t had any cases before this present outbreak, which started in mid-November. It is no more than a quarter of a mile from where I work, and 5 miles from where I live. I pass it every weekday on the way to and from work. Total number of residents had been around 70; 50 of them tested positive. May the deceased RIP, and may the survivors recover as quickly and completely as possible. God help their families and caretakers, and God help this country.


  3. Lord, remember your servants who are departing this life, and those who love them and care for them.



  4. or maybe once, when she was a child
    she felt it on a summer day
    her twirly dress making a circle
    of joy above her dancing feet
    as she spun
    and fell down in the grass breathless
    so soft so soft

    reminded me so much of this snippet from the Protoevangelium of St. James:

    And he set her down upon the third step of the altar, and the Lord God sent grace upon her; and she danced with her feet, and all the house of Israel loved her.


  5. As I sit by my 27 year old little brother who is at home receiving hospice care and very restless this hits hard..:


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