The doorbell at my father’s house rang, and the dogs went crazy. A physician was at the front door who had requested to come to pay his respects and to check on my father, as he had lost his wife (my mother) of more than six decades just days before.
He sat with us at the kitchen table, and we spoke briefly of other things: dogs he never thought he’d own but did now for his young children and being unable to get said dogs into a groomer during COVID, which was causing concerning hygiene challenges.
We laughed with this soft-spoken, genteel man, an expert in the most formidable of medical subspecialties, as he spoke of giving his tiny dog a “Brazilian wax,” forced by the extremes of the circumstances.
Later, he performed his abbreviated physical exam and explained Dad’s current condition and recommendations for going forward. Understanding a lack of appetite mixed with a broken heart, he advocated for trying to get a second meal in each day as a goal. We spoke for a bit longer, and he asked if he could come back in four to six weeks.
This wasn’t Dr. Jatinder Soni’s first home visit. The first time was a few months before when Dad wasn’t getting out of bed.
He came into the bedroom and bathroom, pulling out each medication bottle from the drawer and honing in on one he thought was causing the over-sedation. He was right. We stopped it, and within days Dad had recovered and was back on his feet.
This allowed my father to partner with my mother during her journey to death, and partner he did, lying in bed at her side while she took her last breaths.
No one asked Dr. Soni to make these visits. We are fond colleagues but don’t know each other well, so I tried to talk him out of coming,
embarrassed he’d make such a fuss over my 91-year-old dad. He told me to stop feeling guilty and to kindly give him the address.
What must it feel like to have a doctor you respect so much ask to come into your home when old age is taking you with such force as to render medications nearly futile? How do you place a value on this act of grace, this conveyance of profound respect?
We are living through a time in health care that leaves us ragged at the end of the day — our normal tasks accelerated and intensified to a point unimaginable just three years ago. We see incivility and divisiveness all around us, and yet, I see in Dr. Soni’s acts of kindness — the pure and distilled reason most of us chose these messy careers in the first place.
By doing something like this, he has bestowed the most powerful gift one can give another human being — the gift of honoring a life with all the skill and humanity one has to offer.
I want to thank Dr. Jay Soni and to recognize him as the gift to our medical staff, our organization, and to our community that he is. Words cannot express what a gift he has been to my family.
Sarah Snell is an obstetrician-gynecologist.
Image credit: Shutterstock.com