What do you care?

There is something uniquely gut-wrenching about watching a grown man cry.

It seems almost too private to write about, yet has unsettled me all day and so I feel the need to work it out.

A patient who had been to the clinic for a long time passed away last fall. Now, her family was back in the clinic, giving an hour long presentation that was half a memorial, half a thanks. The clinician I was with that day was — is — a man’s man. More fit than a fiddle, broad shouldered, narrow waisted, tall, handsome, charming. Spent his stint in the army. Loves his outdoor sports.

I kept glancing across the table, wondering if he’d crack. The rest of the (mostly female) department was audibly sniffing. He was still doing his tough guy stance. But when they got to the part they were specifically thanking him and relating stories of the times the patient had spent in our department, he was doing more than wiping a few tears.

As soon as the lights came on, he stood up, all official and business-like, and went to his desk. As a person who has lost her tears in public more than once, I knew he was business-like scrubbing his tears as fast as possible. Patients in 10 minutes.

In 10 minutes, I couldn’t find him. I went up to bring the next patient down. I was up one flight of stairs,  when I heard (but couldn’t see) someone entering the stairwell. I heard him crying up three flights of stairs. Actually, I heard him stop in the stairwell to do his crying without an audience. He’d have easily overtaken me on the stairs if he had any intention of climbing them.

He joined me in the patient’s room a few minutes later, no trace of tears on his face.

And I was angry.

Not that he’d cried. Not that he’d hid his tears.

That this place is so far from home.

I finally found a place that seems to care about human beings the way I do, and it’s hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of miles from home.

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