knowing life by parenthesized

29 Mar

They say that at the moment of death, you can feel the body go cold.  Suddenly, you will stop cradling a warm human life; instead, you are clutching a corpse that grows colder by the second.  You can feel their body heat dissipate into the air.  They say that this is a traumatic experience you never get over.

After ten years as a nurse, I have never had this experience.  The staff jokes that I have the touch of life, or death has an allergy called Paula.  I am a hospital good luck charm, a protection against the bitterness that sets in after someone watches their fifth, tenth, hundredth patient die.

Sometimes the other doctors and nurses tell me I am naïve, that I cannot possibly understand medicine or life or death or how to be human.  They curse and cry.  I hug them, hold their shaking bodies close, brush their hair from their eyes, and tell them they are right.

My patients do not die, at least, never while under my care.  I could not tell them that I know what holding death is like.  They like to claim that my life is rosy, that it is a pale reflection of our profession.  I used to remind them that I have held suffering in my hands, but I have only seen death from a distance.  I have watched my patients linger in the throes of pain, the agony that accompanies complex treatments and risky surgeries.  My colleagues know this, know that sometimes death seems like a mercy that none of my patients will know under my care.

But, I only know life.

Even with suffering, I know I will get the joy of recovery; the elation a family feels when they hear the word, “fine.”  They resent me for that sometimes.  I understand.  After all, I nurse no death induced sorrows when I leave for the night.  My family listens to stories of tragedies turned into happy endings.

No, I do not know death, but when I watch my colleagues, I wonder…do I really want to?  If ignorance is the price of my life, this is something I will gladly pay.


3 Responses to “knowing life by parenthesized”

  1. ingrid March 29, 2010 at 3:11 pm #

    I really thought that this was beautiful. Thank you.

  2. jadamthwaite March 30, 2010 at 6:25 pm #

    I really like the contrast between Paula’s contentedness and the environment she works in, and I like your exploration of it. I get the feeling that there’s more I want to know about this Paula; you’ve set her up really well.


  1. calling by parenthesized | the character project - April 26, 2010

    […] We previously met Amy in the dress.  Paula appeared in knowing life. […]

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