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Poetry and Medicine
May 7, 2003

Lifelines

Author Affiliations
 

Poetry and Medicine Section Editor: Charlene Breedlove, Associate Editor.

JAMA. 2003;289(17):2183. doi:10.1001/jama.289.17.2183
Six brittle monthsafter burying my young son,I reach out my hands, Dad,and they're your hands reaching,ready to work, gripping the handlesof your own casket, then letting go."Lifelines crisscross the palms,connecting the generations," you said,"the way roads crisscross maps,connecting towns."And you placed them—your palms—next to mine, linking our lines.Richard, then I, then the other mournersdrop shovelfuls of dirt onto the casket.We watch the dirt take on different shapes,like a face growing old.Richard and I walk back to our chairsalong the rocky path, trying to maintainour balance, as we did when told thatyou were dead.I sit stiffly in my stiff chair.Richard leans forward in his seat,grips the edge,as if it's the only solid objectin the world.I want to say I'll be father to him:make corny jokes, walk with himto the synagogue, sing the prayers with him.But he's a brother, not a son.Instead, I glance at my palms,these maps showing roadsthat end so abruptly withoutthe young palms thatonce completed them.
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