Physician, Heal Thyself (or not)

Posted: April 12, 2012 in Uncategorized

As the surgeon attended to our loved one, she was losing the battle with her own son. After surgery she would remove her scrubs and travel to his bedside, not as a healer, but rather a grief-stricken mother.

I will never forget it and it lives in the poem I wrote at the time:


You came back
with scalpel and skill
to do what you do best
a woman healing other women
with patient precision

You carried
training and experience
willingness and resolve
suspending your own life
for the sake of another

You shared
good news and reassurance
description and instruction
one of the rituals we repeat
in waiting rooms

You asked us
for prayers
when we mentioned your son
for we knew
why you had to go back

You suggested
particular words
not generic or laden with false hope
but words of mercy
that he might not suffer

You already knew
the encouraging case
unfolding on your operating table
just what to do, and when
toward the happy ending

You were helpless
before the bad news
served at your own kitchen table
where credential and vocation
stood mutely by

You took your hands
and moved them for others
a dance of hope
when you couldn’t lift a finger
for your own

Did you, as your blade carved out a future
ask why this one and not the other
or rail
against bitter ironies
under your breath?

Or did you offer
the only thing at your disposal
some sideways gratitude
for making a difference in one place
while remaining desperate in another?

  1. Jan Coffman says:

    Very touching. …and you (and other ministers) have probably done the same in other ways that we will never know. “…making a difference in one place while remaining desperate in another”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s