Great Hospital Raid by Russell Giles
A Father’s Passing
Congestive heart failure allows no easy exit
The pain spasms defy anticipation
And medication barely masks
The muscular contractions’ intensities
Each hurt fractures a treasured breath
Hospitals allow a private man few dignities
The nurses’ pragmatic kindnesses
Often drift to tortured interruption
As records policy demands brutal routine—
Wake every two hours for pulse and BP,
Blood drawn twice daily from now hiding veins
Small pains cast upon a greater pain
Yet still he is so patient and polite.
The family (long separated in different lives) gathers for five days
Resurrecting old rivalries, becoming siblings again
Sleeping fitfully on well worn lounge couches and armed chairs
Walking empty hallways long past visiting hours
Meeting over stale coffee, recalling times past
Finally negotiating small truces after they watch over
Their once strong and gentle sire’s troubled breathing
Willing it and the pain to stop.
Each son and daughter and then frightened wife
Has had their own private moments with him
Each hoards the depth and equanimity of his love,
Blessed by so rare a thing in his eyes—
Complete acceptance and unconditioned pride.
On the sixth afternoon in the snow they move to hospice.
The once wayward wandering son (first born male)
Now a man himself past fifty
Stands this last days vigil alone.
The exhausted family gratefully allowed to miss the final hours.
But this son (who has known more of death than the father)
Cherishes the silent moments in the lowering dark
Watching the stuttered rise and fall of his old man’s chest.
Chanting a silent one word request
To all the lost gods he knows: “Soon?”
In the blackest hours of a new day
The dying man’s discomfort force him to one last sit up.
The two manage it slowly, the son rolling the torso
Pulling withered legs over the bedding’s edge
Then hefting trembling shoulders to upright.
He then props his father’s brow against his own to hold balance
They are like two monks bowing to one another
Each striving to achieve the lower homage.
And in their eyes both opened
They say all the silences.