Before I was a doctor, I worked as a nurse’s aide at a small community hospital. There was a frail, elderly woman who lost her sight to cataracts. I took care of her for weeks, but she was suffering from dementia and couldn’t really remember me from one day to the next. She was cute and harmless, mostly she would lay in bed staring at the ceiling, occasionally muttering nonsense.
One day, she happened to sit up abruptly while I was in there and screamed. I ran over to her and asked her what was wrong. She said, “Trevor… I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. Please forgive me” over and over.
I had no idea what to do, but she was hysterical. I sat next to her, took her hand, and said, “I know. I forgive you.” She laid back in bed and seemed content. I left in the afternoon and she died that night.
I felt guilty for a long time for lying to her. I hope somewhere, at some time, in some universe, Trevor really did forgive her.
I watched my brother begin dying when he was about nine and every doctor said he wouldn’t be alive to see 15. When we knew how serious his disease was, I told him I’d be there when he went. I let him down due to some complications with getting my paperwork done for emergency leave but my kids were visiting. When he found out their flight was delayed a day he said that he didn’t know if he could make it and everyone just thought he was really excited (he adored my children.) He made it for five hours once they got in and then passed away at 24. He was a total badass. He also told my dad, a couple days before he went, that there was so much he (dad) didn’t know about me and that, no matter how long he lived, he’d never tell. That man loved me more than almost anyone else ever has or will. My best friend to the end. I don’t care if no one sees this. It’s nice to just be able to talk about him.
I worked for a patient monitoring company and saw many people in many hospitals. I many near or at death. 99% of the time the y just wanted to talk and were always interested in what I was doing in their room. Much much more so than any other type of patient. I ended up asking an elderly man why so many people near death were so talkative this way. His answer was obvious to me only after the fact. He said he’s dying and realized what he would miss most of all in this world… The stories. Took me awhile, thought a lot about it and realized myself just how powerful of a statement that is. His story, my story, and humanity’s story.