My last shift

It’s getting close. Steve was packed – until I unpacked his disemboweled guitar to take a picture of it. Serves him right, overachiever! I haven’t exactly started, but I’ve been piling stuff around the self-packing cat, quietly seething. Which books? How many shoes? Mosquito repellant or sunscreen or both? Amish skirt, the gray or the khaki? And if I pack 2 pairs of sneakers and the kickboxing DVDs does that count as working out or do I still have to do the work?

Freezing sun on Lake Champlain

The cold is sharp. -5F, getting colder, predicted down to -40F with the wind chill. It’s so cold you don’t want to breathe it in. It’s so cold that the clothes don’t matter, colder than it should be legal anywhere but the poles. I wish we could package those minuses and Fed Ex them to the Polar Bears.

Iced North Country

Steve made arrangements to forward the mail. Our neighbors asked how often to water our plants – once a week is good? Hah! I do it every blue moon, no wonder they keep dying! Today’s the last garbage day. In two days we’re driving to Buffalo, 7 hrs away, with the cat and the dog. Just let that sink in!

My last shift is tonight.

That’s bittersweet. Medicine has been good to me when it didn’t tear me to pieces.  I learned about people and diseases while I almost lost my native tongue. I’m wiser, tougher, and more confident than when I started but I lost my youth and my stamina, and my future is running short. I acquired a new identity – I am now a doctor at work or at home, in the ED or on a plane – but I lost my reverence for the magic of medicine. I’ve become independent but I lost my sleep and my strength. Thanks to medicine I’ve traveled the world from Eastern Island to The Komodo Island, from the North Cape to Patagonia and everywhere in between.

Canals and windmills – The Netherlands, of course

I was awed by its beauty, torn by its sorrows, and shared in its hopes. I made friends everywhere. Many friends.

I loved sharing in the lives of my patients and knowing them and their families. I loved feeling useful and appreciated and sometimes even loved.

Most of all I loved belonging to the ER community, my own MASH, in the war against death, suffering, and destruction, all of us together against The Others. I love many and I like most and I respect everyone’s courage, grit, and ruthlessness against evil.

They had my back. They were the best family I’ve ever had and I will miss them dearly. I already do. They are my friends and their lives and their stories will be fodder for my writing. We laughed and we cried together. We saved lives together and we failed together. We were a team.

It’s wonderful to have been through this, and it’s even better to move on to a new chapter, to another adventure, to my next life. Every tomorrow means yesterday is dead. The memories remain. My ER team is a part of me. I’ll take them with me to the Far East and I’ll drink a Chang in their honor and I’ll see their faces on my pages. I’ll keep up with them on the Net and who knows? Some day we’ll meet again.

Summer midnight in Norway.

Rada Jones MD is an Emergency doctor in Upstate NY, where she lives with her husband Steve and his black deaf cat Paxil. She authored three ER thrillers, OVERDOSE, MERCY, and POISON.


7 thoughts on “My last shift

  1. I almost cried when I read about your last shift and the ER team. It’s so touching…
    Tomorrow you are stepping in a new chapter of your life. Good look my friend!

  2. We miss you already!!! You are a beautiful photographer, a beautiful writer and, better yet, a beautiful person. Enjoy this time of your life. Embrace it as only you can. Safe travels. Love to you and Steve.
    Penny and Loy

  3. Beautiful and so very true !! May your next adventure in life be good to you. You are an inspiration and I feel blessed having the privelige to work next to you and call you friend.

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