This past spring, I spent Easter Sunday in the hospital. Though I’ve spent weekends on call during my third year of medical school, this wasn’t for a rotation. It was for my family.
My grandfather is 93 years old with a slew of health issues, including dementia, heart problems, and lung deficits. His health was failing, so he was brought to the ER and eventually admitted.
I usually spend every Sunday at church, and this holiday is perhaps the most important one of the year to my faith. We had grand plans that day to go to church in the morning, eat Easter lunch at my grandparents’ house with aunts and uncles and cousins all hanging out in the dining room, and perhaps take a trip to the beach the next day.
Instead, we found ourselves by his bedside. His face was thin and gaunt, the bones of his legs visible. He would give raspy coughs and his eyes were closed. My mom rubbed his hands and kissed his head. My grandmother, too, visited and prayed. Since music is a significant part of my family’s life, I had brought my guitar with me to play music for him, to let him know we were there for him. And so, we made music and sang songs — and not just any songs, but songs of praise and worship. Amazing Grace was the anthem of the day. I meditated on its lyrics: "Through many dangers, toils and snares / We have already come / T’was grace that brought us safe thus far / And grace will lead us home."
While I strummed the guitar, my mom also sang a song called “What a Beautiful Name” by Hillsong. The bridge of the lyrics were particularly powerful: "Death could not hold You / The veil tore before You / You silence the boast of sin and grave / The heavens are roaring / The praise of Your glory / For You are raised to life again."
This struck my heart. As a Christian, I believe God created us to enjoy the world he made and enjoy his presence, but we chose to go our own way and rebelled against him. Though we sinned, he still saved us by coming to earth, living and walking among us, teaching us the way of love, dying on the cross for us to bear the punishment we should have borne, and rising to new life to secure everlasting life for us.
And so, my family and I sought to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, even surrounded by the sick and dying.
My grandfather was eventually discharged from the hospital, but I know his health is still failing. He is no longer the man I used to know: tall and stately, always asking what I wanted to eat for dinner, pointing out the birds during our walks in the backyard garden, always singing and dancing when my grandmother played the piano. Throughout the years, I have learned that medicine is not the cure for everything. Treatments, however advanced or however far the health care system has come, do not guarantee anything. Physicians and clinical care teams are not perfect, with no full knowledge of illness and prognosis. Yes, I know that medicine can be remarkable – doctors can truly save lives. But I also know there are limitations.
This is where faith comes in for me. I believe there is a God who can breathe life – new, eternal life. I know not everyone shares the same beliefs; some may call themselves spiritual, while many medical students claim no religion. But I want to share this story in the hope of encouraging you, fellow medical student, to persevere. We will encounter death and dying in all our rotations, in whatever residency or field we choose to go into. But there is hope, there is always hope. Perhaps one day you may find yourself at the bedside of a loved one, or a patient, and perhaps you will play the role of comforter; may you meditate on the miracles and complexities of life, find joy amidst the trials, and also share this hope.
Whether faith is an important part of your life or not, may you find strength and peace, may you find the motivation to keep on going and persevere. For we are called to serve wholeheartedly; we were made not just to do a career or make money, not just to go through school — we were made to impact one another, serve one another, and lift each other up. This is the basis of everything I do, my reason for going into medicine. My faith is a cornerstone of why I'm a medical student.
Anna Delamerced is a medical student at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University. Born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio, she enjoys exploring the crossroads of writing and medicine, and listening to patients tell their stories. Anna is also a 2018–2019 Doximity Author and a 2019-2020 Doximity Fellow.
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