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Medical Humanities

A Death In November

Arya Shah

Published September 10, 2019


First came a daughter, the very youngest one,

very soon followed by the next oldest son. 

They came in waves on that day in November.

to be together to comfort and remember.


Though it was in fact to be a day of death,

they were gathered as if for a joyous event. 

And I couldn’t blame them, because I too agreed.

I’ve seen too much suffering, prolonged by greed. 

It’s a gift when, in the presence of love,

death comes quickly, swooping in from above.


Conversations rarely happen with the still-living,

with families too often overcome with misgivings.

I’ve seen tubes put down when lungs don’t breathe. 

I’ve seen knives cut deep and false hope bequeathed.

I’ve seen months of indecision, 

families paralyzed by fear,

because they’ve never had to see

a death from so near. 


Instead I saw the joy of a family who knew

what grandma had wanted and all she’d been through.

No questions unanswered,

no cause for doubt:

There was nothing but certainty of what tonight was about.


The pressors, the machines,

the beeping: subsided. 

The silence replaced

by a peace undivided.

I could feel tears rolling, 

but for once they felt good.

I was seeing death happen

exactly as it should:

without questions, without qualms, and without suspicion

because medicine had been there to support the transition. 


I know life is messy,

and death hard to predict.

Too often it is sneaky,

and may decide to act quick.

But I’ll do my best to remember 

that daughter, son, and dad

and how happy they were 

with no uncertainty to be had.

I know I won’t be perfect, but I’ll always remember 

how it felt to cry those happy tears 

that day in November. 

Originally from Los Angeles, Arya moved to Minnesota for medical school before making the move further east for residency. She is currently first year psychiatry intern in Boston. She just completed her medicine months, and continues to reflect on her experiences from that time as she moves into her psychiatry training.

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