Off the Shelf
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Hear My Song Reaper

I could see the scythe swinging from one eye to another
The Reaper hovered towards my room
Life had left me months ago, when I had first heard the news
Now I knew it would’ve been better, had I not left the womb

There was nothing that could be done
Stage 4 the doctor said
My parents held onto me; openly and silently wept
Yet, all I wanted was to be left alone, in my bed
But the Reaper still hummed his song

A long, deep sleep would comfort me, I thought
Away from the painful reality of terminal cancer, I could draw blissful solace
I could dream of a life fulfilled, unbroken and undeterred
I could sing the beautiful song of my life, as it echoes throughout the halls of my palace
There is no malignancy, no suffering and no end
Yet the Reaper still hummed his song

I woke up from my false sleep, only to see the Reaper lurking over the side-rails
Painful agony crept into my heart as I contemplated the end of my short life
No matter where I ran and hid, I could still hear that terrible hymn
I felt darkness envelop me whole, as I saw nothing left for me but misery and strife
And the Reaper still hummed his song

But, I knew I could not leave my family; not like this, not this way
The unforgiving metastasis indeed hurt me, but neither did it spare them
They were my anchor, a hardened rock pressed against the raging storm
For them I would gladly give all I have left: soul, life and limb
Let the Reaper hum his song

I clasped my mother’s hand and gently kissed it
I played with my father’s balding hair and told him I’ll be fine
In their eyes I saw a breadth of hope, gasping for air
Together we promised to let our love carry us forward, watching it bloom and shine
The Reaper no longer hummed his song

As I wait for the scythe to fall, I whisper under my breath and say:
Hear my song Reaper and keep sleep at bay

As physicians in training, we have a responsibility to learn to not only treat the disease but also heal the patient. Oftentimes, we neglect the impact serious ailments, such as the terminal stage of a disease, has on the psyche of the patient. Even more so, we forget that the patient alone is not suffering, but his or her family is undergoing excruciating pain, as well.

The intention behind this poem is to capture the emotional storm one faces when confronted with news of an impending end. In this case, the patient is haunted by the personification of death, the Grim Reaper. The Reaper chases the patient as they journey through the stages of denial, depression and acceptance when faced with their own mortality.

Farhan Shah Farhan Shah (2 Posts)

Contributing Writer

St. Matthew's University School of Medicine

Farhan Shah is a Class of 2018 medical student at St. Matthew's University, School of Medicine. He graduated from the University of Maryland, College Park with a Bachelor of Science in General Biology and a minor in Spanish Language, Business and Cultures in May, 2014. As expected, most of Farhan's time is spent in pursuit of his MD. He is also a newlywed husband. In whatever spare time he has, he spends it hiking at Harpers Ferry with his wife, diving into new books (preferably classics), and binging on Netflix.