She wasn’t able to speak much, but I
knew her favorite color was purple.
Cancer took her too fast–without
family by her side when she died.
Who was I to be in her presence when
even her own sister was not allowed?
I was the one who wore purple gloves.
Notes from the interview that inspired this poem:
“I try to focus on the glimmers of hope and humanity–on the goodness amidst all of this,” she said. She was in her third year of medical school, and her training, like everything, had been especially challenging because of COVID-19. She knew it would make her and others more resilient in the long run, but she also knew interacting with patients through masks could never be the same as touching a shoulder and seeing a face. She shared an unforgettable story with me about one particular patient who had touched her deeply. The patient’s sister, who had been her caretaker for years, wasn’t allowed to visit, so she would call her with updates as often as she could. The sister was devastated she wasn’t allowed to visit, and by the time she was, it was too late to say goodbye. She told me the patient couldn’t speak due to her disability, but that she knew her favorite color was purple, and so she would purposefully look for purple gloves to wear when she cared for her. I was blown away by this simple, but profound gesture–an act of compassion; a loving honoring of her patient’s humanity in her final days of life.
Interviewee: Anonymous, Medical Student
Listener Poet: Jenny Hegland