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Living Will FREE TO VIEW

Lynn Levin
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Editor’s Note:Lynn Levin is a lecturer in creative writing at the University of Pennsylvania. The author wrote Living Will in response to her father’s days in palliative care. She writes, “My father drew up an advance directive. When he fell into a coma, his physician carried out the directive. Still, my father lingered five days before he took his final breath. The living will and the will to live seemed to be in competition, and the brain kept its mysteries close to the chest. My father died at age ninety-one.”

Southampton, PA

Copyright 2016, American College of Chest Physicians. All Rights Reserved.

Chest. 2016;150(5):1160. doi:10.1016/j.chest.2016.06.042
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    Calmed by morphine, Ativan, two days ago
    you squeezed my hand. Sitting vigil
    I recall the worst of you, the best:
    your temper, your loyal interest
    in my works and days and woes and happiness.
    How you, a doctor, followed
    gram by gram a doctor’s orders
    and shuffled in your old man’s shuffle through the house.

    The grip of life is strong upon the flesh
    and strong the fear of death.
    The chaplain comes, recites a blessing
    on your head and speaks to me
    not of the world to come or health or love
    but earthly time. He says
    my eyes are bright, my soul is good.
    I weep then, Dad, but not for you. I weep for myself.

    The hours in the hospice room run slow.
    Nothing by IV, nothing by mouth, you eat
    your final days, will not let go.
    You breathe, you piss, your whiskers grow.
    How much soul lingers in your form
    we cannot know. A dozen years before, loathe to live
    as a creatureless shell, you wrote your directive.




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