Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Day of the Dead

He grimaces with pain, tears streaming down his face. My psychologist colleague and I sit with him and his wife quietly.

"I fight with the Devil in my thoughts. I hear voices. So many things...." He sobs. His wife confirms his suicidal ideation. The patient shares some trauma history with us, the memories of which could very well explain such psychic pain.

"You know", my colleague says gently, "sometimes when we're sick, and we have alot of time to lay in bed and think, memories come back that we might otherwise suppress."

He watches her intently.

"Those memories surface, and then we're faced with the pain all over again, pain that we might not be able or willing to bear."

He cries again.

This man, once robust and working 6 days a week despite his many chronic illnesses, was always barely able to make time to see me every few months due to his schedule. Now, he is a shell of what he used to be, signs of damage everywhere. He has been so battered by his physical health, and now his psychic and emotional and spiritual well-being are significantly compromised.

Our patient and his wife take their leave, she pushing him down the hall in his wheelchair.

My colleague and I look at each other, sigh, and move on to the next patients waiting for our attention.

Yes, it's Hallowe'en, the Day of the Dead. Many ghosts come out from under beds today, skeletons rattle in closets, as the veil between the worlds grows thin. It seemed like our patient was grappling with forces beyond his ken today, speaking of devils and voices and the haunting of his mind by unseen forces.

The sun goes down, the streets darken, and I wonder who else out there tonight grapples with such demons, as children dressed like devils and witches roam the streets.

I think of the small plaque that sits in the therapy room where we met with our patient. It reads: "And in a cruel age, I will sing of kindess" (Alexander Pushkin).

May choruses of angels sing of kindness this night, and may all those in need be blessed to hear their song.
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