An Open Letter to My Dying Patient

It has taken me a year to get up the courage to post this letter. I have gotten permission from Debi’s family and would like to encourage you ALL to read this letter, start Couch to 5K and run this race with us on September 21, 2014. You have plenty of time. Even if you have never run a foot. Please. Make this your summer to do what you have always wanted to do. Make Debi the reason you do it now. Join Eye of the Tiger Team Debi here.

Dear Debi,

I just got off the phone with you and can’t seem to compose myself. The sound of your tiny 3 year old crying in the background will never leave me. Maybe she fell. Maybe she wanted her sister’s toy. Maybe she was hungry or tired.

What I know for  sure is that she was not grieving. She is too young to understand. She is lucky–in a way.

Do you remember the day we met? It was nearly 13 years ago. You were pregnant with the twins and came to see me for the first time. Your blood pressure was kind of high and I freaked out. Can you blame me? You were like my third pregnant patient EVER. I must have been a sight: new, green as can be, still bloated from the baby I had delivered just 6 weeks before.  I was terrified something would happen to you or your babies…and we had only just met.

I don’t have to tell you how that story went—babies were born and perfect, three more beautiful kids followed. Along the way, you took care of every cut and scrape, brushed and flossed countless teeth, cried tears of joy, and lay awake worrying.

In short, you did what we all do as mothers.

Today though, you did something extraordinary. You opened my eyes.

Despite knowing you only had days left on this earth, you took one hour of your time to speak to me. To my guilt ridden sobs you spoke softly and told me there was nothing I could have done to save you.  But, you laughed ” there are still three things you could do for me.”  So, yes, I WILL work less. Yes, I WILL play with my kids more. Yes, I will cherish my husband.

I hung up the phone with you and chased down my own 5 year old. I stared at her and kissed her and hugged her till she wriggled free. I imagined her life without me in it. Would she learn to run to her dad if she fell down? Would she call for him in the middle of the night when a nightmare woke her?  I prayed for it never to be so. Despite your calm acceptance of your own fate, I know you too would give anything for more time with your own 5 year old.

We spent last weekend with my in-laws. I didn’t pull my mother in law aside and thank her for raising Chris to be the amazing father and husband he is. Because of you,  I will.

I came home from work today and did not immediately sit down and read Hadley a book. I thought more of my full bladder, aching feet, and throbbing head. Because of you and our talk, tonight I read the entire book not skipping a single word. I even changed my voice a few times.

When I find myself annoyed to anger because Chris is asleep in the family room chair  I will think of your words.

Just weeks ago I saw you for the last time. When you were leaving my office I remember you looked at me for just an extra second. It was like you were trying to remember my face. Did you know that we would never see each other again?

A few months ago, before you got so sick, I asked you if I could write about you in the book I plan to write some day. I told you that I thought the fight you were fighting could inspire so many people. I won’t ever forget your words. Without a moment’s hesitation you told me to tell your story freely…that if you could help others it would make your struggle mean more.

I am your doctor.

I should have saved you.

Did you ever imagine that through this unimaginable fate, you would be the one to save me?

You told me that it was too late for you but that you were so worried about B and the kids. Even in your dying days, you thought about your family first.

In the 16 years since I earned my medical degree, I have never been more devastated by a loss, angered by a merciless disease, or grateful to have known patient as I am to have known you.

You and I are born less than a year apart. Yet, I am allowed to keep living and you are not.  Because of you,  I will not ever forget what a gift this life is.  Today as we were getting off the phone, there were moments of awkward silence. Neither of us wanted to say goodbye. And I still can’t.

Instead, I will say “thank you.”  Thank you for allowing me into your life to its very end.

Thank you for your strength, your grace, and your wisdom. It is in your eyes closing that mine are opened.

Forever yours,

Christine

 

Comments

  1. Leasa Goodwin says:

    wow…… beautiful, sad, powerful, and inspiring. As i sit here with tears flowing I am looking up a dermatologist for a long overdue full body exam. <3 <3 <3

  2. Anne Kutzer says:

    It amazes me how strong some people are when facing impossible odds. They seem to know how to strengthen others.

  3. Kim Bowman says:

    You are such an amazing doctor and I can say that YOU have saved my life!!!! But most importantly you are a beautiful person, selfless, an amazing mother, wife, etc. I keep up with my once a year exams with the dermatologist.

    You are making a difference, our team is making a difference and making friends. It has been an amazing journey so far for me. And now I click the link to sign up. I feel grateful to do this 5K on my birthday in honor and memory of your friend/patient and her family.

    Kim

  4. Doug says:

    Sobbing

  5. Karen says:

    Tears thinking of Debi and my loved ones, families and friends who we have lost.. Beautiful letters

  6. Adel says:

    Debi…..thank you for bringing out that very shinny amazing part in Christine and all of us, you will live for many years to come inside so many that have never had the pleasure of meeting you.

  7. Marlene Matarazzo says:

    Dear Dr. Meyer – you are a compassionate and gentle hearted healer. Your posting about Debi touched my heart and made me cry. What a wonderful person she was and how blest you both were to be in each other’s lives. Her words of wisdom were just that – pure wisdom that was born from the struggles of poor health. Each little annoyance of the day is just that – little and really not important in the scheme of things. What someone does that we know and love that ticks us off so often are just the things that we would miss the most if that person were no longer with us. What once was annoying is then precious memories. We have a lot to learn from each other and from those struggling with illness. Thank you for opening your heart to Debi and to all of us. We are blest indeed. With peace and prayers, – Marlene

  8. Diana says:

    Because of you and this team, I am taking days off of work while Alan is away to enjoy life with my beautiful son. I think of you and what you do and realise I need to stop, slow down, smell the roses – savor every day. Debi would be so honored and proud to know how much you have done to “pay it forward”. You are truly leaving your mark on this world.

  9. kt says:

    what a wonderful letter. thanks for sharing

  10. Christine, thank you for publishing this. Even after a year I have not yet been able to define the boundaries of my sorrow since Debi died. On her remembrance card she asked us to not be sad, to remember the happy moments we shared with her during her life. That has been a challenge I fail every day. Thank you for all that you did for her and all you continue to do for our family, her family. Deb is also the reason why you are my family doctor, and every time I see you I feel I catch a glimpse of my sister in your eyes, because I know you care for my well being the way she did.

  11. Maureen Digby says:

    Christine, you are an amazing person. I am a newer patient in your practice and I CAN’T WAIT to meet you!

  12. Kristin Swarcheck says:

    Beautiful letter! Thank you for sharing this. My mom passed away last year and she was young…I went through so many emotions but I strive every day to see the beauty in this world and to enjoy every moment. We never know when our time is up and letters like this are helpful reminders to focus on what matters most…our loved ones and living a joyful, abundant life.

  13. Genie Platt says:

    Wonderful tribute to your patient…Thanks for posting!

  14. Sally Whiteman says:

    That was beautiful. With tears in my eyes I too am understanding the important things in life. With my skin starting to sag and wrinkles on my face. It took me a tad bit longer to slow down and smell the roses. So glad you have learned this lesson early. Enjoy

  15. Cynthia (Cindy) Crosby says:

    What a beautiful letter to your dying friend. We can all only hope to have a friend in the end that cares so much for us.
    Thank you for writing this and I look forward to reading the book.

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