Just Lost a Friend

by | Oct 21, 2013 | Reflection

It’s ironic and painful, having just blogged about “patients as friends…”

But it’s my job. And it’s life. I’ve been up close and personal with death scores of times over the course of thirty plus years. It’s a most difficult yet treasured part of my profession. As a Family Doctor, attending to the needs of a patient and his or her family approaching, through, and after the moment of passing is a sacred privilege.

It has never been the same way twice.

Sometimes the process is protracted, agonizing, and long-expected. Sometimes it’s sudden, precipitous, even startling. And it’s everything in between. I’ve been there as the attending physician, the counselor and communicator between the specialist(s) and the family, or as myself a grieving member of the family. But always as Doctor.

It has never been the same way twice.

But this is a new one for me.

He is brought up to my office by his wife. He is near death. Some unforeseen complication of a recent surgery? Some heretofore hidden time-bomb of a disease? I have him transported to the hospital where, like dominoes, one physiologic catastrophe falls upon another and he is gone in 48 hours.

I suppose I’m of the age that more and more of my contemporaries will be dying. (Now I understand why my mom was always reading the obituaries). But he was my age. Our kids went to high school together. We had recently conversed about our common faith and politics as I had pronounced him “fit” during his physical in the last year.

I’m not ashamed to admit that I have cried before when patients have died.

It’s never been the same way twice.