Op Note XXXIV
The patient was in a perilous state. Critical condition. We had done all that could be done. Maxed out on pressors. Vent settings 100%. It was all up to him now. Everyone seemed to be praying. His mother in the chair to his right, eyes closed, hands clasped, was whispering a prayer. The father prayed with his head bowed. His best friend from childhood was praying. His brother too. The teenage daughter had made her hands into a steeple. A cleaning lady was making the sign of the cross. His wife alternated between weeping and praying, sometimes praying through the weeping. The nurse was mouthing words of benediction. The respiratory therapist stood in meek reverence, like a parishioner waiting for the priest to tell her she could be seated again. I looked past them all out the window at the flock of murmurating starlings swooshing in swirling arcs against the mottled gray sky. No one really knows why they do this. Maybe to confuse predators. Instinctual group behavior to increase their chances of living. I fought back the urge to think of them as a swarm of stinging insects. Bees or wasps. An endless onslaught of sharp pricks that feels like the sting of every single loss. Please be starlings, I thought. Please just be starlings.