A patient of mine died today. Nothing unusual about that, but this one stood out. He was unresponsive when my shift started, and I hadn't known him before, but immediately upon entering his tiny little section of the three-bed room in the nursing home where he lived you could tell what his passion had been throughout his life. Pictures of airplanes covered his walls, and there were models on his windowsill, too. Jets, fighter planes, bombers... you didn't have to be a genius to figure out what made the guy tick.
He also had a poem on his wall that I'd never seen before but which totally blew me away. As he took his last breaths a little before 11:30 this morning, I read it into his ear.
His family wasn't there, and they didn't want to come see him before the mortuary arrived. If they were there I'da just suggested one of them read it. It was kind of a magical moment, and I wished I coulda shared it with someone, so that's what I'm doing now. Here's the poem:
by John Gillespie Magee, Jr.
Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds, — and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of — wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there,
I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air. . . .
Up, up the long, delirious burning blue
I've topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or ever eagle flew —
And, while with silent, lifting mind I've trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.
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