Coping with a Storm

A patient worries


Three days ago, she learned that she had cancer.  Two days ago the scans showed how far it had spread.  Yesterday, we discussed the limits of therapy.  Today, she understands that she going to die.

IV in arm, monitor chimes, oxygen’s gentle hiss, she sits on the side of the bed and stares out the window at the grey city morning.  She is worried about the future. She is worried about suffering. She is worried about the tens of thousands of frightened, cold and isolated people left in the Hurricane’s wake.  How will they find new homes? How will they find new jobs?  How will they rebuild their lives? The devastation lies heavily on her soul.

“At first we prepared to fight the storm, boarding up windows, buying bottles of water, fleeing to higher ground.  Perhaps we would stop it with readiness.  The storm came, despite our prayers, so we huddled behind closed doors and boarded windows, cowering from the sound.  With its wrath the storm attacked all, rich and poor, young and old, good and bad.  Then slowly, the fury and energy faded, leaving a foreboding silence. “

“As the rains stopped and the clouds flew away, we began to see the devastation.We were shocked. How could this be?  Surely, this was an illusion, a story over told.  Nevertheless, slowly, as our eyes opened and our denial began to fade, we saw the horror and we became angry.  What had we done to deserve this punishment? Were we not special and righteous?   We soon realized we had done nothing.  This was not punishment at all.  This was life.”

“So, we begin to accept the destruction, the loss, and the suffering.  We understand that for many, even for most, that the life they had is gone.  We will never be the same.  I will never be the same.  What once was is no more.”

We sit together in the quiet left by her words. She half smiles, watching the pale light though the hospital glass.  Cool hand, holds mine.   She sits, waits, remembers.   Tears run down her cheek as she copes with the storm.


As published in Sunrise Rounds.


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