Friday, November 7, 2008

1,000 Cranes

0535 hrs. -- As I approach the door to the home of Mr. and Mrs. O., I see that the sun will be rising soon and it's going to be a beauty. It seems that now, I rarely get to see the sunrise... which I think is far superior to a sunset. Lately, only the death of one of my patients gives me this opportunity.

A little over twelve hours ago, Mrs. O. had just returned home from an overnight stay at a psych hospital. Her suffering, from her terminal illness, had compelled her to make a sincere, but clumsy, suicide attempt. Newly "signed" onto hospice care, we were all hopeful that some relief could be found for her...but now she is dead.

After making my pronouncement, I perform a brief examination of the body. No new marks, no remnants of pills in her mouth or in the bed. No orange-colored, oral secretions from liquid morphine. She is, in fact, for lack of a better word, "pristine" and her facial expression is well... beautiful and serene.

Mr. O. prepares a simple breakfast for himself while we wait for the funeral home to arrive. Sitting at the table I notice, hanging from the ceiling, an amazing origami display. Seemingly countless, shimmering, paper cranes, suspended from colorful strings, that reach from ceiling to floor.

"What is this?", I ask. "It's absolutely stunning!"

"Oh, that's one thousand cranes," says Mr. O., looking up from his bowl of cereal. "Well, actually, it's two thousand cranes," he adds. " I made them."

Mr. O. quietly explains the two occasions that inspired him to make the origami cranes and then falls silent. For several minutes we share a comfortable silence. He with his breakfast and me with my tea.

"You know, she went so peacefully," says Mr. O., and I look into his kind eyes and nod my head.

Suddenly, sunlight spills through the window and sets the origami cranes ablaze in flashes of light and color. I can't take my eyes away from it. It's indescribably beautiful. For now, I will only look at this. Maybe later, I will think.


Dr. Joanne Cacciatore said...

The difference you can make is immeasurable. I'm so glad he was able to share a space of silent with a compassionate other...

Jessica Knapp said...

My sister's in-laws are Japanese. I had a health problem last year, and they immediately began making cranes for me. Being on the receiving end ... it's the most touching, heart-warming thing. And I can imagine, as someone who has a sick loved-one, it helps to feel like you have something to do, some way to contribute. I love this tradition. I'm so glad you wrote about it.

Anonymous said...

Beautifully written.

dethmama said...

@ papercages... Thank you.. from you, I consider this high compliment.

Anonymous said...

wow... I don't know what to say. That was a most excellent post. Thank you

Kit Courteney said...

I don't visit here often enough. This post reminds me that I should.