The smell of disinfectant hangs, heavy
As doctors drift by, angels in white coats
Stethoscopes draped on shoulders like
The wires that leave their patients arms.
The quietness presses down on us,
A little family unit, waiting for
The inevitable, the gentle rhythmic beep
To fade to nothing as she slips away,
You’d hardly notice, it’s so understated,
I don’t know what I had expected,
To see her soul leaving through her mouth?
But no, she’s gone in much the same way as she came.
I was reading about somebody who lost their dad when they were young and they could vividly remember going to the hospital before he died and seeing him lying in the bed with a tube coming out of his mouth.
It immediately made me remember being about five or six years old and visiting my great aunt in hospital a few days before she died. I still feel a little bit traumatised from that experience as she looked so unlike herself, the aunt who used to be so full of life and fun.
Hospitals are horrible places at the best of times, but that was the only time I had been in a place where people were really sick. I still don’t think I’m very good at acknowledging death and how it will even come to me one day, but I remember really getting it in that moment and it terrified me.
I’m sure that if I were to go and visit somebody who was about to die now, I would have a much easier time, but since reading my book this morning, I’ve been replaying that visit all afternoon.
Death comes to us all, but it will never fail to be both frightening and, I suppose to a certain extent, quite beautiful and liberating.
2 thoughts on “death on the hospital ward”
Those ‘goodbye’ visits are so hard, aren’t they, Rachel? It’s almost as hard, I often think, on the nurses, doctors, and other staff members as it is on the family. No-one likes to see a life slip away, even if it’s expected. That’s why I’ll bet the medical staff loves it when someone rebounds quickly and can go home sooner. Or when a healthy baby is born and mum and baby have an easy time of healing up to go home. It’s a refreshing, needed contrast to the sickness and death.
I think that being a midwife must be the best job ever. I know there will be things that go wrong, but on the whole, you get to be a part of one of the most special days in a person’s life. However, I can imagine it’s a real privilege to be at the other end of it and be there in palliative care.