Hektoen International

A Journal of Medical Humanities

The Chair

Linda Barber
Atlanta, Georgia, United States


Poet’s statement: Too often healthcare providers become immersed in the day-to-day activities and duties of their jobs, while seeming to be inattentive to the feelings and emotions of patients and their families. This poem was written to give voice to the feelings of a wife as she bears witness to the hurried, disengaged “care” provided by seemingly disembodied healthcare providers. The poem provides insight into the universal need for healthcare providers to be ever knowledgeable and mindful of providing compassionate care to patients and their families, particularly at the end of life.

The chair: a poetic reflection of caring
She sat in the chair by the bed at his side.
As life slowly left him, she watched as he died.
She sat and she watched as the nurses gave care
To the man in the bed, who was no longer there.

Her face was as still as the heart in her man.
No expression was seen as she sat with her hand
All the while clutching his, as he lay there so still.
She had always been there; he had been, oh, so ill.

For many a day she sat in that place,
Always watching for change in her loved one’s face,
Hoping somehow, someday he would rise from the bed,
And come home to the place he belonged, but instead

She spent countless a day in that room, in that chair.
Yet sometimes to some it seemed she was not there.
They would come and they’d go, do their job and just leave,
Never saying a word, never seeing her grieve.

There were those who appeared to give comfort and care.
There were those in a hurry to rush off somewhere.
There were those who would speak to the man in the bed,
Even though he could no longer hear what was said.

She watched as the aides gave a bath to her man.
She watched as they joked and made after-work plans.
She watched as the nurses complained of their day,
And how busy they were, or how little their pay.

She wondered if truly their lives were so bad.
Could they not see her pain? Could they not see the sad?
Did they realize her life was there, close to his death?
Did they know that she hung onto his every breath?

Was there some way of showing these people the hurt
That she felt when they seemed to ignore her man’s worth?
Was there some way to tell them to give him their time,
As each moment was precious to this man who was dying?

How she wished she could take him away from this place.
How she wished he were well and could gaze at her face.
As she sat in the chair by the bed at his side,
And held onto his hand as he finally died.

And now the bed’s empty; so, too, is the chair,
Yet this man and this woman still seem to be there
To the ones who took time to pay notice and care;
To the ones who have ever been part of a pair.



LINDA A. MASON BARBER, ARNP, MS, is an assistant professor of nursing at Georgia Baptist College of Nursing of Mercer University in Atlanta, Georgia. She received her BSN from the University of Florida and her MS in Nursing from the University of South Florida. She is currently a student in the PhD in Nursing program at Georgia Baptist College of Nursing of Mercer University. Her area of expertise is adult cardiology. She is currently completing her dissertation research, which focuses on physical activity in women with cardiovascular disease.


Highlighted in Frontispiece Summer 2012 – Volume 4, Issue 3
Summer 2012  |  Sections  |  Poetry

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