Jim’s Peace

Jim was dying of renal failure.  The older nurses called me into Jim’s room to check his blood pressure.  They knew that as a nursing student I had most likely never seen the pounding pulse of 250/175 that is consistent with end stage kidney disease.   Years of overly sweetened blood coursing through his kidneys had weakened the delicate maze of glomerular filters.  Sharp edged glucose crystals had poked holes in every twisting calculi.  His salted crystalline skin, his yellowed eyes, his distended abdomen mounding under the bed sheet were all symptoms I was instructed to observe. What I noticed was the stillness in his room.  Late July sunlight slanted through the window in an undisturbed manner.   Only essential functions were ordered for Jim,  so his room was absent of the usual hospital bustle.  In the afternoons, while the nurses were finishing their charting, I would sit with Jim.  The 2 p.m. quiet filled his room and we would talk. About nothing I can particularly recall.  No potent life advice, no acute perspective from a man so near the grave.  What I remember is the stillness.   The peace that comes from knowing you are almost done.  No more schedule, no more blood tests, no more updating your CV.  And it is into this calm that I venture when I write.  It is this stillness that I invoke and work towards, whatever the subject.   A newborn’s illness, a family loss, a moment in the summer garden.  I ask Jim’s peace to guide me.


Katherine Seluja poet