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Moments of a Life: A Reflective Poem on Patient and Human Connection

Op-Med is a collection of original articles contributed by Doximity members.

This is part of the Medical Humanities series on Op-Med, which showcases creative work by Doximity members. Do you have a creative work related to your medical practice that you’d like to share? Send it to us here.

I have spent 26 years trying to build a life, accumulating every moment
The beautiful and the hideous, the relieving and terrifying
Piecing them together like magnets on a fridge
Trying to form a sentence for others to make sense of

Some of those moments I share happily with the world
The day I got into medical school, when I became an aunt
Those moments define me, I want the world to know

Other moments I keep locked inside the deepest pockets of my soul
So far down that even my closest loved ones do not have the key
So far down that I am not sure if those moments even really happened

When talking with her
She reveled in how much she valued the education she was able to provide her children
How they all went to college when she never got the chance
But the devastation in her voice when describing her first year without her husband
The pancreatic cancer that took him from her
Made it clear that it was best not to pry

Everyone has an assortment of moments
Some they want to shout out to anyone who will listen
Some they want to bury so deep it's almost as if they didn’t happen
We live our lives balancing these moments carefully
Sharing what we can bear, hiding what we cannot

I realized in this conversation that the purpose of my journey through life
Is not only to make sense of my own puzzle pieces, but to try to understand those of others

To take one moment and clarify how it fits with the next
How these pieces come together to make up a person

But I am just as protective over my own moments as anyone
These moments cannot be torn from my grasp
If someone else gets a piece, it is because I let them
Because I wanted them to help me put the puzzle together
It only makes sense that she would be the same

So I wonder who I am to tell another life, another box of puzzle pieces
That they must share, like a scolding parent to their toddler
Who am I to tell someone that they must give me their pieces?
Not all of them, just the ones that I have time to gather, the ones that I dare ask about
Who am I to tell a patient to trust me to put the puzzle together?
Who am I to trust myself?

What was your inspiration for this poem?

I was inspired by a home visit with a patient. She had lived a full life and was more than willing to answer deeply personal questions about her experiences and emotions.

How long have you been writing poetry? What got you started?

I have been writing poetry for as long as I can remember. I find poetry to be my most cathartic activity. More recently, I have enjoyed it as a form of reflection of my experiences. This has especially been true in medical school as I've learned so much in such a small amount of time. I have needed space to be able to process the things that I've seen and done.

Is there anything else you'd like to tell us about your involvement in or views on arts in medicine?

I have been deeply involved with medical humanities since starting medical school. I have participated in a Healer's Art enrichment course as well as participated in many Kern National Network events. I believe that my involvement in such activities will save me from burnout.

Evelyn is a third-year medical student at Dell Medical School at the University of Texas at Austin. She plans to train in family medicine and has a passion for reproductive health, health policy, and health disparities.

Image by GoodStudio / Shutterstock

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