Off the Shelf, Poetry Thursdays
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They did not want to disclose that I was dying. Out of respect for my family’s wishes, my cultural values and ultimately myself. But they forgot to respect my right to know, my right to choose which way to go, my right to see tomorrow and the fading of the sunset glow. What if I wanted to shove that tube down my own throat to keep my lungs from turning into collapsed bags of air or pull it out to expedite the deflation and demise? Or rather, experience summer night once more, intoxicated by fantasy and blissful affection under the forested hum of a ballad that all made sense when nothing mattered anymore.

But they would never know. Until I was dead and it was too late.

Every day I lay on the hospital bed, unfamiliar to me, with its profound sterility. Everyday as the monitors buzzed and beeped, fluorescence and horrid scents seeped into my senses. The days I spent there piled up like heaps of decaying leaves, awaiting a visit from the Grim Reaper. Everyday, a group of white coats would come into my room, look at the undulation of numbers on the monitors and pontificate about what to do next. Their faces were pasted with concern that palpated through their cold stethoscopes into my paper skin as they held back the words flickering in their eyes.

That I was dying. And it was too late.

These venerable humans attempted to provide me with sensitive care but required a medium to speak, my own child, who believed I should not know of my untimely demise. I wondered if they would have treated me differently if I had understood their verbiage, if I spoke their native tongue. Would they have waited this long to disclose my fate and continued to view me as a human to be pitied, or would they have bypassed my family in the name of autonomy and told me the calamitous truth of my fleeting existence.

I had incurable cancer. And it was too late.

But if they would have told me, I will never know. My thoughts, composed of a different alphabet. My emotions, inexpressible through their vernacular. My desires, goals, and passions, they would never comprehend, no matter how hard they tried. Part of me did not fault them for their sheer lack of understanding. Because not even I can say I understood. I forced my mind to shut the thoughts out, lock the door. Build a trench allowing no one in or out of my mental castle.  I just wanted peace and quiet. I wanted silence. But at that time that word meant something very different.

What I was avoiding was imminent. And it was too late.

Maybe they knew I was not ready to accept this path. Maybe they had more insight than I gave them credit for. But it is hard to remain ignorant to an undeniable truth when you feel your very soul slipping into the ethereal energies, your muscles disintegrating into desert sand. How naive they are to believe they understand when the last breath will be. They do not understand the weight of a failing body, the way its skin falls from bone, the putrid odor that can never be cleansed.  Only I reside in this body that no longer feels my own, one that can no longer support this soul. Only I exist in this flesh, every moment of every day. I know I am dying. You cannot hide that from me.

But I was already ‘dead.’ It was already too late.

Poetry Thursdays is an initiative that highlights poems by medical students and physicians. If you are interested in contributing or would like to learn more, please contact our editors.

Faizah Shareef Faizah Shareef (1 Posts)

Contributing Writer

Boston University School of Medicine

Faizah Shareef is a third year medical student at Boston University School of Medicine in Boston, MA class of 2021. In 2016, she graduated from University of Miami with a Bachelor of Education in exercise physiology. She enjoys writing, checking out new restaurants and Crossfit in her free time. After graduating medical school in the future, Faizah is currently unsure!