“I had been trained to be this way. No panic, just a calm journeyman’s approach to any affliction, like a mathematician working an equation. Years of preparation, acquiring a skill set, building up my vault, had readied me to stand in the lounge like a zebra.
And so, I stared at my hands to see if I was actually here, to see who I was. Maybe I was hoping to see something different. Anything, really. A tremble, a shake. But I saw nothing. Just my hands. Steady. Solid. Quiet.
The clock clicked, 8:21. It was one of those old-school clocks, like you’d see on the wall back in grade school. I had zoned out looking at a similar clock at my son’s last parent-teacher conference. The second hand was rigid and jerky, making a big move forward, then a small move back. Big forward, small back.
Everything fits together, like the pieces of a giant puzzle. The picture becomes clear only when the dark colors blend with the bright. The picture is revealed because of the unity of pieces. I felt the seconds ticking, moving forward from 8:21. Even though it didn’t look like it, deep down, the last thirty minutes had kicked my ass. From the outside I was calm, but somewhere inside, the hideous reality of death and suffering screamed and rattled in my well-guarded cage.”
Shannon Sovndal is an emergency physician and author of Fragile: Beauty in Chaos, Grace in Tragedy, and the Hope That Lives in Between.
He shares his story and discusses his KevinMD article, “Calm in the face of the hideous reality of death.”
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