Death is an inevitable part of all life on earth, and yet it’s one of the hardest things to contemplate and deal with.
Spare a thought, then, for those who are in its midst every day of their working lives. Take, for example, the doctors who see people pass away on a daily basis, even more so the ones whose shoulders it falls upon to inform relatives that a beloved has died.
Recently, an emergency physician at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Indianapolis, Louis M. Profeta, shared a poignantly touching story about breaking the news to a parent that their child hasn’t made it.
The letter he wrote is steadily picking up traction online for its candid emotional honesty, and it’s something we think everyone should read. See, Louis will always check the Facebook profile of the person he loses, and there’s a powerful reason as to why …
Louis M. Profeta recently revealed that he always looks at the Facebook accounts of recently-deceased patients, before telling their parents they’ve died.
As he explains, in a heartfelt open letter:
“It kind of keeps me human. You see, I’m about to change their lives – your mom and dad, that is. In about five minutes, they will never be the same again, they will never be happy again.
Right now, to be honest, you’re just a nameless dead body that feels like a wet bag of newspapers that we have been pounding on, sticking IV lines and tubes and needles in, trying desperately to save you. There’s no motion, no life, nothing to tell me you once had dreams or aspirations. I owe it to them to learn just a bit about you before I go in.
Because right now … all I am is mad at you, for what you did to yourself and what you are about to do to them.
I know nothing about you. I owe it to your mom to peek inside of your once-living world.
Maybe you were texting instead of watching the road, or you were drunk when you should have Ubered. Perhaps you snorted heroin or Xanax for the first time or a line of coke, tried meth or popped a Vicodin at the campus party and did a couple shots. Maybe you just rode your bike without a helmet or didn’t heed your parents’ warning when they asked you not to hang out with that “friend,” or to be more cautious when coming to a four-way stop. Maybe you just gave up.”
The good doctor explained why he feels its his duty to learn about a patient before telling their parents that they’re no longer alive.
“Maybe it was just your time, but chances are … it wasn’t.
So I pick up your faded picture of your driver’s license and click on my iPhone, flip to Facebook and search your name. Chances are we’ll have one mutual friend somewhere. I know a lot of people.
I see you wearing the same necklace and earrings that now sit in a specimen cup on the counter, the same ball cap or jacket that has been split open with trauma scissors and pulled under the backboard, the lining stained with blood. Looks like you were wearing it to the U2 concert. I heard it was great.
I see your smile, how it should be, the color of eyes when they are filled with life, your time on the beach, blowing out candles, Christmas at Grandma’s; oh you have a Maltese, too. I see that. I see you standing with your mom and dad in front of the sign to your college.
Good, I’ll know exactly who they are when I walk into the room. It makes it that much easier for me, one less question I need to ask.
You’re kind of lucky that you don’t have to see it. Dad screaming your name over and over, mom pulling her hair out, curled up on the floor with her hand over her head as if she’s trying to protect herself from unseen blows.
I check your Facebook page before I tell them you’re dead because it reminds me that I am talking about a person, someone they love – it quiets the voice in my head that is screaming at you right now shouting: “You motherf**ker, how could you do this to them, to the people you are supposed to love!”
His words may seem too brutally honest for some, but the message he’s sending is undoubtedly clear. Never take life for granted, you don’t know how much of it you have left.
I’ll be honest in admitting I shed a tear reading this letter.
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