One of the many challenges of being a doctor lies in the large multitude of diseases whose progress we are powerless to cure, along with the inevitable senescence of all life with time. It is especially in these settings the physician must assume the vital role of “accompagner”, the French word for one who escorts and keeps company with the person under their care. While death remains inevitable, it need not occur in a setting of loneliness, isolation. The physician poet invites us to join this dying patient and her husband in imagining what is to come and what it might mean. The key is being present for the journey, and for the aftermath for the survivor. It’s never an easy task, but remains one of the most rewarding for those of us who have taken on this role.
I wonder if the dead remember us, like we remember them.
Scared of ghosts as a child, I see how
adults crave their company. How easily fear
in the right hands, can be molded lovingly into longing.
I wonder what is like to die at home. Hospice,
a hope to be comfortable, comforted by
the companionship of a faithful lapdog, warmth
of a familiar blanket patterned with lingonberries.
For the husband who asked if I knew his wife
was a painter, I don’t know
if the end result is art or memory. After the visit,
I wonder if you will consider yourself
lucky to be haunted by the soft music
of brush strokes against canvas, when
the blanket is folded away, when the dog lingers
in the place where the bed used to be.
- Matthew Lin, MD