By Rebecca Hughes, M.D.

Faculty Editor: Elizabeth Mitchell, M.D.

I saw him at the grocery store today.
He stood 6 feet in front of me.
I know his silver hair,
his kind voice, his smiling eyes
above his homemade mask.

I met him last week.
He was my patient then.
He told me I have beautiful eyes,
the only part of me he could see,
that wasn’t hidden by my PPE.

He has five children that he loves,
but he didn’t say much more.
He died.
Just last week.
And now I see him here in front of me.

I see him everywhere.
The neighbor gardening next door.
The mail carrier waving hello.
The stranger buying fresh milk and eggs.
But that’s not who he is anymore. 

He’s someone who might get sick.
He’ll soon feel tired and warm,
then struggle to breathe and meet me in a stretcher,
then sit in isolation with the rhythm of the vent,
and die without a proper goodbye.

I wish I could see him as he really is.
This won’t be over until I do.