Monday, September 20, 2004

Unseen Sorrow

"Please come. I think he's stopped breathing," she said as she leaned towards me at the nurse's station.

My white sneakers take me swiftly to his room at the end of the hall.

"Hello," I solemnly greet the son as I approach the bed and lay my stethoscope against his chest. This listening is a formality really. A way I can definitively document what I know to be true as soon as I look at him. I can't just write, "I walked into the room and the patient looked dead, so I called the doctor." No, that doesn't come off quite professional enough. "No breath sounds nor heart sounds heard during 60-second auscultation" seems more appropriately science-based.

"Nothing," I answer their unspoken question. Sixty-seconds never goes by so slowly as in these scenes.

The sound of my voice cracking surprises me, "I'm so sorry for your loss." Where is this grief bubbling up from? This family remains calm and composed. There are no tears, no visible signs of sorrow. No objective, science-based evidence to document their grief. I am certain that their response is cultural. Despite being aware of the explanation for this difference, I find it extremely difficult to empathize with a sorrow that I cannot see. But I'm working on it.


Cori said...

wow! Intense and insightful! (great writing!)

Cori said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
big seester said...

Which culture(s) disapprove of showing grief? I am just curious.

I once knew a man from Thailand, whose brother had died of a heroin overdose at a rather young age. Their tradition was to put the body on a raft and burn it. He told me it was the most horrific thing he's ever endured, and years afterwards, still sees it in his nightmares. Although it was the cultural norm, apparently it wasn't his...