Editor’s Note:The author writes, “Steve Shepherd and I have independently written and published poems in the past few years. A short time ago Steve died of respiratory failure due to cystic fibrosis. A while ago, I was admitted to the hospital without knowing that Steve was also in the same hospital until shortly before I received a request from him to see me as he was being discharged to go home under hospice. Out of fears of cross-infection, persons with cystic fibrosisare not allowed to make contact or even be in the same room under current rules. We met illicitly in the lobby. He with his wheelchair and dangling plastic O2tubes, speaking four words between breaths, and me knowing I would not see or hear him again. I teased him about his uncombed hair, and to rhyme, he said he didn’t care. I told him I was disappointed and regretted that there were still so many things that we intended, but never managed to get to do together. His poet said, ‘That’s the measure of a great friendship.’ We chatted a few minutes more, before the team came to transport him to the ambulance. He turned to me, stuck out his forbidden hand to shake mine. In an instant, I felt all the world of rules and edicts prohibiting such a moment rush through me as I reached to take his. He pressed firm and long. His wife pressed her hand on ours and my wife also, forming, not a moment, but a forever. As he rolled away, he said, ‘Now go wash your hand.’ I said, ‘Ok, I will, but I cannot wash you from it.’ Steve was a poet. Poets are forever.”
La Jolla, CA
Copyright 2016, American College of Chest Physicians. All Rights Reserved.
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