Pectoriloquy |

Bikkur Cholim FREE TO VIEW

Davi Walders
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Correspondence to: Davi Walders; e-mail: dwalders@yahoo.com

Editor's Note: Davi Walders developed and directs the Vital Signs Writing Project at NIH, is widely published, and numerously prized. She writes: “I am so glad CHEST publishes poetry. I applaud your efforts. In studying the concept of “bikkur cholim” in Judaism, I came across rabbinic writing stating that a person's responsibility is to help the sick by relieving ONE-SIXTIETH of a sick person's suffering.

Michael Zack, MD, FCCP

Reproduction of this article is prohibited without written permission from the American College of Chest Physicians (www.chestjournal.org/site/misc/reprints.xhtml).

© 2009 American College of Chest Physicians

Chest. 2009;136(2):643. doi:10.1378/chest.09-0203
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To do a mitzvah, it is not enough,
the rabbis say, to visit the sick
like God did with Miriam and Abraham.
To achieve even a sliver of righteousness,
it is said, one-sixtieth of a sufferer's
suffering must be relieved by deeds.
Sweep, the rabbis teach, chop wood,
fix food, wash, soothe, help the family,
reach out to hold the hand in pain.
This time I pick you up, you whom
I have known since we laughed
our way through the endless list
of eligibles. You sit inside to avoid
the sun. Thin as an afternoon shadow,
you are almost at the car before I
see you. A sigh escapes as you settle
in, whisper “Hi,” brush my cheek.
You struggle with the seat belt.
I reach over to help. My spine shoots
warnings of the mistake before your cool,
pale hand corrects me. “Feel like lunch
before?” I ask, practicing the art
of casual questions. “We'll see,”
is all you promise. Today it's bloods
for both. Is one strong enough for
another surgery? Is the other's count
good enough for donating and storing?
Long past adjusting to husbands, dogs,
and children, we have slipped across
a new border, stumbled into a new
language. We love neither doctors nor
needles. Waiting rooms provide no haven
for catching up. Suddenly, we are awash
in the precarious work of women getting
women through their fifties. One-sixtieth?
Old friends must struggle with new math.
“Put the top down,” you say. I pause,
worrying. Two-sixtieths? “Do it,” you
command, wanting to feel the breeze.
We laugh. Three-sixtieths? I push
the button. Six-sixtieths? We do not
know the fractions of the rabbis
of old. We just fight the odds. Sun
floods the car. For now, the mitzvah
is to refuse to begin letting go.




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