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A Piece of My Mind
September 21, 2011


Author Affiliations

Author Affiliation: Division of Hospital Medicine, Palliative Care Service, University of California San Francisco; VITAS Innovative Hospice Care, San Francisco (

JAMA. 2011;306(11):1177-1178. doi:10.1001/jama.2011.1335

Ms Cornwall died today at 4:25 in the afternoon. My children were by my side when I got the call. Ms Cornwall's family was by hers. Everyone knew this moment was fast approaching, yet not one of us was ready for it when it finally came to pass—especially not my daughter.

When I put the telephone down and looked up, my eyes flooded with tears that passed from my face to hers in one smooth stream, trickling down my nose and mouth and onto her warm, soft cheeks. She bit her lower lip trying to stifle a cry, but her trembling chin gave her away. A wave of sadness swept over us as we sat curled in each other's arms. My pain was magnified in the wake of my daughter’s. How could this 10-year-old girl, who only moments earlier had argued with me in her most angry, righteous, and defensive tone, denying any sort of hostile or bullying behavior, denying how she had just attacked her brothers, now be so soft, so consumed with sorrow?

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