One Last Visit to See My Patient

The rain was coming down in torrents and my shoes were not up to the job. Nevertheless, I pressed forward along the soggy blocks. My 91-year-old patient and I had been together for some 20 years — honestly I’d lost count — so this was the least I could do.

Fibrotic lungs and a weak heart set in a 4-foot-5 frame of osteoporotic bones would not seem the stuff of stamina, but until recently, she was still making the grueling 20-hour plane trip back to the Philippines every autumn. She had bounced back from several stays in the I.C.U. even well into her 80s.

My patient’s daughters took exquisite care of her. It was clear that every medical issue was rigorously attended to, but it was also clear that she was abundantly steeped in love. It’s hard for me to remember a time when she wasn’t smiling.

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