Hektoen International

A Journal of Medical Humanities

Dawn of Mourning

Paul Rousseau

Poet’s statement: I am a hospice and palliative medicine physician and see suffering on a daily basis, suffering which is often callous and brutal. In addition, I experienced suffering first hand with the death of my wife 3 years ago from the ugly ravages of scleroderma. I have used writing, particularly essays and poetry, as a way to help me heal and continue to confront the daily debris of terminal disease–writing has brought me comfort, solace, and an open heart.

dedicated to Pamela Rousseau

I slept on a chair

Of metal and memories

Stained with the love and

Sorrow of many a family.

The clock motioned to my struggle:

I stood and her eyes

Closed like the final

Chapter in a book, a

Page turned after 52 years.

Then her heart rested

And stopped, a dark

Gesture in the rising

Of a white harvest moon.

It was silent—no longer the

Flailing of immortality or

The struggle of breath,

Her journey secured

Above the thickness of death.

I cried—they said

They’re sorry, the

Nurse and chaplain.

And I walked to the

Elevator, a swirling

Dawn of mourning

Floating like a heavy fog,

A shirt without a button, a

Shoe without laces.

DR. PAUL ROUSSEAU has practiced hospice and palliative care for 28 years, and has written about his patients and his own experiences as a physician caring for terminal illness. He has published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, JAMA, Chest, and Journal of Palliative Medicine to mention a few. He lived most of his life in Arizona, but last year relocated to Charleston, SC where he currently serves as Associate Professor of General Internal Medicine and Geriatrics and Medical Director of the Palliative and Supportive Care Program at the Medical University of South Carolina.


Highlighted in Frontispiece Winter 2010 – Volume 2, Issue 1

Winter 2010  |  Sections  |  Poetry

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