Marco Deplano is a urologist and works at a hospital in Sardinia, Italy. He’s still quite a young man but because of his job, he’s already seen some difficult things in life. Some cases he works on don’t have a happy ending, but just pain, and then more pain.
One day on the ward he had an encounter with an elderly woman that he knew he’d never forget. He wanted to share it with the world so he posted an account on Facebook, which quickly went viral. It’s not hard to understand why…
Here’s what he wrote:
“Today I received a call to do a consultation in another department. The usual… It was about a patient with terminal cancer and renal insufficiency due to compression of the ureters. The woman I met there was between 70 and 80, with carrot-orange hair and flawless pink fingernail polish.
– Good morning, Ma’am.
– Good morning to you, Doctor.
I looked in her file, did an examination, and repeated the ultrasound.
– Ma’am, your kidneys are struggling: they can’t eliminate urine naturally anymore, so I will need to insert a tube, a kind of valve that bypasses the obstacles. So then you’ll pee into two tubes connected to two bags…
– Excuse me, Dr. That means I’ll have another pouch behind me too?
(She’d already had a colostomy.)
– Yes, Ma’am.
There was a long silence. It felt endless. But then at last, she looked up at me smiling.
– Sorry, what’s your name?
– No, your name.
– Marco… what a beautiful name. Do you have a moment?
– Of course, Ma’am.
– You know, I’m already dead. You understand?
– Sorry, no… I don’t.
– I already died 15 years ago. When my 33-year-old son had a heart attack and passed away. I died that day too.
– I’m so sorry.
– I died then, with him. And then I died again ten years ago when they diagnosed me with this disease. But now I don’t have to pretend anymore. My children are taken care of, grandchildren too. I want to go join him. What’s the point in living a few extra days with these bags, with suffering and so much work for me and my loved ones? I have my dignity. Will you be offended if I don’t want to do anything? I’m tired. I’m ready to entrust myself to the hands of God. Tell me the truth, will I suffer?
– No, Ma’am. You can do whatever you want. But putting two bags…
– Marco, I said no. It’s my life. I’ve decided. If you want something to do, let’s stop the transfusion. Then I can go home and eat ice cream with my grandson.
Every word she said stripped away my defenses, as if taking petals off a flower. I forgot my exhaustion, my anger and frustration, everything. I forgot the years of study, the thousands of pages I’d read, the rules, the facts. I felt naked and disarmed facing this candor, this awareness of death. I turned around to write in the file so the nurse wouldn’t see the tears in my eyes. I was so moved. Anyone who knows me knows, that’s not usually me.
– Marco, does this touch you?
– Yes, a bit, Ma’am. I’m sorry.
– No, it’s nice. Thank you. It makes me feel important. Listen, please do me one other favor. If my children come and shout at you, call me. I’ll tell them to stop. Write that I’m okay. Okay?
– Yes, Ma’am.
– Marco, can I ask you something else?
– You’re special. I know you’ll go far. Give me a kiss, like you would if you were my son — do you mind?
– Of course not.
– I’ll pray for you. And for my son. I hope to see you again.
– Me too. Thank you, Ma’am.
In that moment she was the most beautiful person in the world: radiant, confident, mother, grandmother — pure love.
She gave me the greatest lesson of my life, with those simple words. Death is the final part of life. There’s no need for fear, anxiety, or selfishness. Things that years of study don’t teach you. I felt so small there, in front of this magnitude.
Suffering is part of love, it brings people together sometimes even more than love itself. And sometimes a kind word is a more powerful cure than the most modern drug. Whatever you think, cherish the journey.”
Marco was generous to share that moment and everything he learned from it! The hardest experiences are often the most beautiful.