The Last Time

Such a privilege
To rub your back
And smooth your hair
As you cough and vomit and strain to draw
In between telling me stories of happy times
And sad times
Saying goodbye to friends
Whose bodies could no longer hold
And I wonder how much longer...
But you plan for tomorrow and next week
As if things were not the way they are
So I say goodbye
This will not be the last

You let me walk back to the ward
With you
And as we walked (so slowly) you spoke
Of life
Near death
You said to me
"I'm not sure how much more I can take"
I looked and saw
Your face
Pale and taut
Your body
So frail and stooped
And knew without knowing
This would be the last time

Miriam Johnston
July 1997

Miriam Johnston is a physiotherapist at The Royal Children's Hospital in Victoria, Australia. She works with cystic fibrosis patients there, often near the end of their life.