She squeezes her eyes tightly shut and holds her breath. Her head is bald. Her belly round and taut. Her daughter stands over her, clasping both hands in hers, her own eyes tightly shut, softly singing a song of hope and redemption. Her husband sits quietly, barely present, in the far corner of the room. She tenses when I slide the needle into her skin, gasps at the sting of the anesthetic. She moans when the needle reaches her cancer-thick peritoneum. When the needle burrows through, she cries out. Her daughter’s voice catches, but the song goes on.
She is dying. Slowly dying. The cancer is relentless. There is no redemption for her. The prick and sting and moaning of this procedure will offer only temporary ease of suffering. The fluid will be back.
I remember Easter as a celebration in my childhood home. We awoke Easter morning to bright baskets and elaborate scavenger hunts. New clothes. Church. Ham dinner. He is risen!
Risen indeed. Now I am grown. I hastily tossed some plastic eggs around the sleeping house on my way out the door to start the night shift. I won’t be there when little eyes open in the morning. When little hands pluck pink and blue and green plastic eggs from their hiding spots. When little laughs ring out to discover what is hidden inside.
It is just one more aspect of answering the call to medicine. One more shift worked. One more holiday missed. One more dying woman’s suffering eased. One more song of hope and redemption.
I finish the procedure. She apologizes for crying. The daughter finishes her song. The husband thanks me. There are beads of sweat on his forehead. I walk out through the dark lobby. A couple sits together, holding hands, their heads bowed. Another couple sits apart with wrinkled brows. The weeping Madonna statue on the wall gazes sadly across the room. No one looks up as I pass.
This is Easter in the House of God.
Sarah Rogers is a radiologist.
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