Six Precious Words

you never know what comes through that door... (photo from Italy, 2014)

you never know what will come through that door…
(photo from Italy, 2014)

A knock on the door interrupted my lunch.

“Soapie? They’re calling downstairs. Someone can’t breathe.”

Standing up, I swallowed my last bite then flew down the stairs.

Sweat dripped down his pale face. His chest heaved up and down, as if he were struggling to carry a boulder in his arms. Continue reading

Thawing at the Moon’s Feet

A frozen Charles River, thawing at the moon's feet...

A frozen Charles River

The city skyline twinkled in the deep, dark night. Its light reflected upon the icy waters of the Atlantic.

En route to work, my car scurried around snowbanks from February’s fury. I rushed into the hospital to receive handoff from the off going nurse.

“He’s very fascinating, if you get a chance to chat with him,” my co-nurse reported during shift change. “But the main thing is to watch his breathing. And his wound.”

I scribbled notes and stuffed them into my pocket. “Got it.”

~ ~ ~

His gray hair seemed like it had just been combed. He leaned against a stack of pillows. His skin and lips were pink; his breathing fine. He gave a gentle nod. “Hello.”

I checked his vital signs. “How are you feeling? Any pain?”

“Actually…” he hesitated. Continue reading

Seven Day Fight

the few resources we had. cambodia, 2010.

all we had. cambodia, 2010.

At first, I didn’t see her.  She was her husband’s shadow, following him closely from behind.

His chest heaved, and his neck muscles retracted, as he fought for air.

Please help my husband, her eyes pleaded. She fidgeted beside his bed.

His skin pale, his lips faded to a blue grey. “ហត់ចង់ងប់ (I’m so tired, I could die),” he panted.

We were losing time.  Continue reading

Keep on Dancin’

Toes tapped and heads bobbed to the groove of electric guitar, keyboard, and drums. The lead vocalist serenaded the audience. As he sang, I searched the tables for familiar faces.

Wrapped in her black coat, she sat quietly, hands folded in her lap.

Jum reap sua (hello),” I pressed my palms together, raised them to my nose, and bowed my head in a formal Khmer greeting.

She hesitated.

Maybe she didn’t recognize me without the scrubs. Or maybe she couldn’t hear me, with the Khmer rock band blasting on the stage. The band was the highlight of the fundraising dinner for the Khmer community.

“Oh, it’s you!” her stoic expression transformed into a toothy grin. She patted my hand.

How far we have come… 

Continue reading

When You Mourn, I Mourn Too

Everything was pink.

Pink roses highlighted a heart shaped bouquet. Pink suit, the last outfit she’d wear. Pink ribbons pinned to suit pockets, to remember her battle with cancer.

We sat in silence, our hearts heavy.

Her husband cleared his throat, then spoke in Khmer. “When I first met my wife, I saw her disabled leg. I knew she felt embarrassed by it, but I looked at her, thinking, ‘her…that’s her, that’s my soon to be wife.’ Although her leg was disabled, her heart was not. Her heart was beautiful…”

During the war, all I remember was running away from the guns,” my friend sobbed. “I was told the story by my family member that I was only 2 yrs old and my sister was 12 yrs old.

Continue reading