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Medical Humanities

Stories on a Whiteboard

Zachary G. Jacobs, MD

February 24, 2017


I still remember your smile.
If you can even call it that -
plastic tube jutting
between cracked and bloodied lips,
like a scuba diver, trapped
beneath a vast and oppressive sea,
just waiting 
for the tank to run dry.

To look into your eyes
was to gaze upon a raging sky -
their blue-grey color,
like livid, or slate,
betrayed an unseen tempest –
an inner turmoil
fueled by nostalgia for what once was;
the knowledge of what is; 
as well as pain
at the loss
of what could have been.

Sometimes, I wonder
about the sound of your voice.
I try to imagine
its pitch and its cadence,
how it might have sounded,
in place of the mechanical whoosh 
of air forced into your lungs.

I still remember your stories -
words flowing freely
in your cramped and scrawling hand;
a voice to replace that stolen
by the tube which kept you alive.
Tales of your only daughter -
of cupcakes and belly aches,
a lonely walk down the aisle,
and the grandkids
you would never meet.

I will never forget
the final message you wrote me,
just two simple words 
smudged by our joint tears,
as I wiped the whiteboard clean
one last time -
your smile unobstructed,
and those eyes: 
somehow brave yet terrified,
and blue and grey
all at once.

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