My last shift

It’s getting close. Steve was packed – until I unpacked his disemboweled guitar to take a picture of it. Serves him right, overachiever! I haven’t exactly started, but I’ve been piling stuff around the self packing cat, quietly seething. Which books? How many shoes? Mosquito repellant or sun screen or both? Amish skirt, the gray or the khaki? And if I pack 2 pairs of sneakers and the kickboxing DVDs does that count as working out or do I still have to do the work?

Freezing sun on Lake Champlain

The cold is sharp. -5F, getting colder, predicted down to -40F with the wind chill. It’s so cold you don’t want to breathe it in. It’s so cold that the clothes don’t matter, colder than it should be legal anywhere but the poles. I wish we could package those minuses and Fed Ex them to the Polar Bears.

Iced North Country

Steve made arrangements to forward the mail. Our neighbors asked how often to water our plants – once a week is good? Hah! I do it every blue moon, no wonder they keep dying! Today’s the last garbage day. In two days we’re driving to Buffalo, 7 hrs away, with the cat and the dog. Just let that sink in!

My last shift is tonight.

That’s bittersweet. Medicine has been good to me, when it didn’t tear me to pieces.  I learned about people and diseases while I almost lost my native tongue. I’m wiser, tougher, and more confident than when I started but I lost my youth and my stamina, and my future is running short. I acquired a new identity – I am now a doctor at work or at home, in the ED or on a plane – but I lost my reverence for the magic of medicine. I’ve become independent but I lost my sleep and my strength. Thanks to medicine I’ve travelled the world from Eastern Island to The Komodo Island, from the North Cape to Patagonia and everywhere in between.

Canals and windmills – The Netherlands, of course

I was awed by its beauty, torn by it’s sorrows, and shared in it’s hopes. I made friends everywhere. Many friends.

I loved sharing in the lives of my patients and knowing them and their families. I loved feeling useful and appreciated and sometimes even loved.

Most of all I loved belonging to the ER community, my own MASH, in the war against death, suffering and destruction, all of us together against The Others. I love many and I like most and I respect every one’s courage, grit and ruthlessness against evil.

They had my back. They were the best family I’ve ever had and I will miss them dearly. I already do. They are my friends and their lives and their stories will be fodder for my writing. We laughed and we cried together. We saved lives together and we failed together. We were a team.

It’s wonderful to have been through this, and it’s even better to move on to a new chapter, to another adventure, to my next life. Every tomorrow means yesterday is dead. The memories remain. My ER team is a part of me. I’ll take them with me to the Far East and I’ll drink a Chang in their honor and I’ll see their faces on my pages. I’ll keep up with them on the Net and who knows? Some day we’ll meet again.

Summer midnight in Norway.

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