To my patients who passed away…

Sorry for the super long no update. Life has been busy (but good!). Having a child really does change your life…

I found out this week that another patient I had gotten to know pretty well at the homeless clinic passed away. They say the average life expectancy of the homeless is around 50 years old. Sadly, I have found that to be true.

Some of these deaths were pretty expected, but this last one caught me completely off guard. I had just seen him a couple weeks ago, and I expected to see him in a couple of weeks for his monthly narcotic prescriptions (and usually some brand new complaint).

It has been hard finding the space and time to mourn. After finding out through an inbox message the very first thing in the morning, I had a full panel of patients waiting to be seen.

Medical school and residency didn’t teach me all that much about coping with patient death, and I have found that it has been much easier to just set it aside and forge ahead. After all, there are still living patients who need my immediate attention.

This morning as I took my daughter out for a walk, I realized something that made me sad; I am beginning to forget. I was thinking about the patients that I had gotten to know who have passed, and even now I can’t remember some of the names.

Well Bob (fictitious name), I don’t want to forget you. Here’s to your memory. I’ll try to do this for the patients I have gotten to know, but we’ll see how it goes. Hopefully it wouldn’t be too frequent.

Bob, I have to admit that I did not look forward to our appointments. Narcotic management is one of my least favorite things, and you certainly made it difficult. For the longest time it felt like a wrestling match of sorts, you always pushing for more and me trying to hold my ground. I confess that there were times I gave in because it was too much to deal with and I had too many patients waiting.

I’m happy to say that it has turned into much more of a partnership this past year. But still, I would always want to get out of the room as fast as I could because there was always “one more thing.”

You were a tough guy, and you have endured much. And you certainly looked the part: big, perpetual scowl, multiple tattoos. Yet you showed me a side of you that very few have seen, even shedding some tears. Thank you for that privilege.

Thank you for sharing with me one of your favorite Bible verses the last time I was with you, Proverbs 3:5-6. That’s one of my favorites too, so hopefully I will never forget about you.

I didn’t know I will never see you again (this side of eternity, anyway). Thank you for the reminder that tomorrow is never guaranteed, that no matter how difficult the patient encounter, that might be my last so I need to be present completely instead of already having one foot out the door.

I do hope to see you again one day. May you rest in peace.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding;
  in all your ways submit to him,
    and he will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6

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