Tag Archives: End of Life

Thinking of my dying grandmother at the Natural History Museum

Roxana Cazan Altoona, Pennsylvania, USA   Bosnian landscape. Photo by Melisa Javier-Wetklow.   At the Natural History Museum in Salt Lake City, I am promised “the assemblage of nature’s ultimate machine,” its precise lurking, one foot crossing the Silurian, its simian lurch trapped behind shatterproof glass. I zigzag through the dinosaur world, the tender bend of […]

Margaret Edson’s W;t: lessons on person-centered care

Atara Messinger Toronto, Ontario, Canda     “She slips off her bracelet. She loosens the ties and the top gown slides to the floor.” American playwright Margaret Edson’s 1998 play W;t has been described as “ninety minutes of suffering and death mitigated by a pelvic exam and a lecture on seventeenth-century poetry.”1 When W;t was […]

Until I get my strength back

Anne L. Rooney Oak Park, Illinois, USA   Hospice hands The emaciated woman lay scrunched in a fetal position with her back to me. I stood in the doorway to her cramped bedroom. “Hello, Loretta. Can I come in?” Loretta rolled over, squinting with suspicion. “You a nurse?” I nodded. “I’m a nurse who visits […]

A CV for posterity

Anthony Papagiannis Thessaloniki, Greece   Lonely tree with timber by Anthony Papagiannis The British Medical Journal (BMJ) is one of the oldest and most eminent general medical journals. Among its many and varied features is a regular obituaries page. Departed members of all branches of the medical profession, academic teachers, researchers and Nobel Prize winners, […]

The morning ritual

Peter H. Berczeller Dordogne, France   Years ago, I heard the adage: “When you get up in the morning, and you don’t see your name in the Times obituaries, you’re good for another day.” I was young then, with no understanding of the seriousness beneath this seemingly witty remark. As a medicine resident, I was no […]

Why not let her go gently into that good night?

Victoria Lim Iowa City, Iowa, United States  Old woman dozing (1656) Nicolaes Maes (1634-1693) One early morning I was paged to see an eighty-five-year-old patient in the dialysis unit with low blood pressure. I learned that she had diabetes, hypertension, and diffuse atherosclerosis. In the past decade she had undergone four major surgeries for blocked […]

Rosencrantz, Guildenstern, and their doctor are dead

Joshua Niforatos & Gregory Rutecki Cleveland, Ohio, United States   ROSENCRANTZ: “Whatever became of the moment when one first knew about death? There must have been one, a moment, in childhood when it first occurred to you that you don’t go on forever. It must have been shattering – stamped into one’s memory. And yet, […]

Death and dying

Tolani Olonisakin Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA Memento mori, remember death. Photo Credit: Southtyrolean, Stencil art. Seville, Spain. Six weeks after I turned eighteen, I lost my father. I was told he died of a cardiac arrest. One minute he was reading the morning paper, and the next minute he lay sprawled across the living room floor, lifeless […]

The last talk

Inge Marry Shikangala Windhoek, Namibia   Alike but Different, by Inge Marry Shikangala, 2017 In April 2016, I took my father to Engela State Hospital at the northern border of Namibia. This was the nearest hospital, but still twenty kilometers away from where my father lived. My two cousins helped me get my very tall […]

Dance with death

Marianne Rogoff Kentfield, California, USA   “All that is important is this one moment in movement. Make the moment important,vital, and worth living. Do not let it slip away unnoticed and unused.” ― Martha Graham Stephanie lived alone in a rented cottage at the back of a garden path. When she was dying at age fifty […]