Healing Lessons from a War Zone
No One Dies Alone
There have been several times in my career, where despite the best efforts of my comrades and myself, we have been unable to save the life of a patient. These times can be both conflicted and de-moralizing, filled with second-guessing and guilt. The worst blow comes when dealing with the death of a soldier. One of my most haunting memories was seeing the eyes of a man shot by a sniper flash open, red and bloodshot, and then glaze over as he fell back with a convulsion and died. In another case, a local woman dying from a snakebite grew increasingly agitated, until she didn’t even know where she was or what was going on. The silence that followed was striking.
I don’t pretend to understand something as unfathomable as death. I don’t pretend to have any true insight to the spiritual nature of it. It is a question that remains unanswered for many veterans who have lost comrades in battle. It remains unanswered for the wife and daughter of the soldier I watched die. But if there is any truth in the matter, it is that these people do not die alone. They do not die forgotten.
Like the eyes of the soldier, the eyes of the Afghan woman who died in our care remain indelible in my mind. But her memory and his memory will live on through me, through their families, through the people who were present for the last moments of their lives. Death in war is a reminder that this violence should not be. And it is up to those of us who survive it to remember those caught in its path, and ensure that eventually, there is an end to violence and struggle, that there is an end to suffering. We must work to ensure that is a place where all of our prayers can find a common ground.
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