Tag Archives: medicine


I I assemble the notebook of my mother’s dying: the specialists’ names, numbers, addresses. Diagnoses, prognoses, prescriptions. Explanations of every benefit we do not feel. We decline patient portals. For our convenience, they say, but we are not yet fools.  We recognize the human hand washed by technology of our sticky anxiety, the obdurate, unanswerable […]



I have developed a crush on my veterinarian, the most useful romance I will never have. Still, I learn her language: I speak inflammatory bowel disease, chronic pancreatitis, allergic sensitivity, idiopathic origins, unpredictable progressions. This one will end where it starts, will leave me doting on the old cat purring in my lap as I […]


Please listen closely because their menu options have changed and your call is important to them, even if they are experiencing an unusually high call volume. If you are having a medical emergency, hang up and dial 911. But if your need is less acute, more ordinary — say, a human being who might listen, […]


I hoped he was dead when I woke the next morning,  eight hours after I left him holding the hand of the next hospice volunteer. We call it “vigil:”  a bearing witness and keeping company with the actively dying. We do it for them and their loved ones —  exhausted, grieving families and friends — who are desperate […]


Sixteen hundred feet beneath the verdant sea cliffs of Molokai — the highest in North America — at the tip of a wildly beautiful cove pummeled by an aquamarine surf, lies a little piece of heaven that for a century doubled as a kind of hell. Its inhabitants were lepers, and beginning in 1866, this […]

Glen Campbell and how we die

I recently saw I’ll Be Me, the documentary that chronicles singer and guitarist Glen Campbell’s decline from Alzheimer’s disease. An iconic musician who took country mainstream, Campbell’s long string of crossover hits include some of the loveliest songs I’ve ever heard, including the memorable “Wichita Lineman”: While the erosion of  Campbell’s memory and cognitive capacity became noticeable before his […]