Wednesday, February 24, 2016

#SOL16: Small Dignities

An Offering (M.A. Reilly,  Ringwood, NJ, 2.17.11)
I... I am watching you sleep 
It's the promise you've made 
What I find I can keep 
Oh I...want to swallow the moon 
Give a smile back to you 
Light your way
   - Melissa Etheridge 


These days Rob sleeps 21 to 22 hours for every 24 that pass.  So I find myself watching him sleep. He hates the oxygen that feeds in through his nose and now we use it only when he is fully asleep. A minute ago as I tried to fit it into his nose, he lifted his hand to bat it away. I apologized and removed it and he resettled.

Small dignities for the dying.

And perhaps that is the lesson he teaches me this morning as I watch him sleep.  It isn't the grand gestures in life that matter most, but rather the small dignities we afford one another.


One of the first things to be tarnished during a long hospital stay is one's dignity--one's self-respect. Most of Rob's doctors (and there were scores) attended to the patient well, but most only tangentially noticed the person. This was especially noticeable during rounds. So often it felt like my husband wasn't of much importance, but rather was merely the vehicle through which a lesson might be learned or a problem solved.

There were some wonderful exceptions to this: his oncologists for sure, our family doctor and an Irish doctor who met Rob one night in the ER and although he was not his patient, sought Rob out across the many hospital room transfers to do nothing more than converse. No doctoring of the official sort. He and Rob discussed literature and he gave a book of Icelandic sagas to Rob.

Dignity after 50 days in a hospital is frail thing. And it ought not be.

I am trying to remember that. The man lying in the bed a foot away is not a patient and he has wants that clash at times with the prescribed course.

My husband still has wants. He is not all need.
How beautiful.
How necessary.


  1. this is beautiful, Mary Ann, thank you for sharing it. dignity is so precious. the book looks amazing... are you recording memories and stories together with Rob? what a beautiful act, and photograph. I am thinking of you all and sending love.

    1. Just writing out of necessity. Thank you, Catherine.

  2. This speaks to me more than you can ever know.

    1. Are you in the hospital? I thought it was next week...

    2. Yes next week but this is what every hospital visit unfortunately entails

  3. Dignity...for the patient and for the one who loves the patient. It's these small kindnesses that must give some comfort, however small.