She took both of my hands in hers and looked straight into my eyes. I could see the strength and resolve of many hard years looking back at me.
"Young man, Dr. Vainio. You have been so kind to me and I know you just want to help, but I have everything I need. I'm going to a better place, so don't you worry about me."
I had to leave the room at that point and went out to the top of the parking ramp. I looked out over the new day with the sun sparkling on the Puget Sound and the Olympic mountain range in the background. The birds were singing and the sky was a rare and brilliant blue.
How could something so terrible be happening on such a perfect day? Every time I tried to turn around and go back into the hospital, I started to cry. Not silently, but sobs that wracked me so hard I had to hold myself up by leaning against a concrete pillar.
In the Spirit of Medicine features the essays of Dr. Arne Vainio, an enrolled member of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe and a family practice doctor on the Fond Du Lac reservation in Cloquet. His essays on life, work, medicine, and spirit are published at Indianz.com.