by Virginia Bartlett

 

After days
of tense conversations,
I stood against the scrub sink
watching him dying,
watching his family
watching him dying,
and I wondered why people talk
about closure as the answer. I wondered
what closure meant
when his breath gurgled, his mouth agape
when his wife’s head burrowed into his open palm;
when the morphine infused at the upper limit of the dose
when the priest’s finger traveled page after page in the prayer book.
When I left the room, I accidentally crushed my fingers
while I closed the sliding, slamming door
in my effort to stop
any further
disruption.

Virginia Bartlett is Assistant Director for the Center for Healthcare Ethics at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.  She grew up in Roanoke, Virginia, and has lived in Los Angeles since 2010, with her husband, three children, and several pets.

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