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Friday, May 25, 2012


Yesterday, I attended a memorial service for a wonderful man I knew only through snippets of conversation shared 50 minutes at a time, every 6 months, for over 25 years. I cherished him, as I do his family.

I've never been a fan of the extreme professional distance school of thought. My patients are much more than random people with "the same set of teeth."

Often, I wonder how medical and dental professionals can push aside attachments to their patients. I refuse to do that. Over my 34 years as a dental hygienist, I've treated the rich and the poor, the famous and the not-so, the angels and the curmudgeons. I've seen pictures of children, grandchildren, pets, gardens, travels, and homes.

My patients--this deep well of friends--listen in turn to my ramblings: plot lines, characters, all things unreal. They've cheered me on and stood in endless lines at book launches. To see those cherished smiles--ones I help to maintain--grinning at me: priceless!

They've also comforted me after the loss of my sister and both parents. Sent cards and flowers when I suddenly fell ill and required serious surgery. Lifted me up on days I didn't feel worth a "plug nickel."

Most know I'm an author, and often share some tale I might include in a novel. One volunteered to pose as a character model for "Hot Mama Jean in her high-healed boots and jeans," a woman I will include somewhere.

We've laughed often, cried a few times, and shared news of births, weddings, graduations, and deaths. Somewhere in there, I managed to do my work, making sure I contributed to their dental health.

When I lose one of my people to The Other Side, I grieve. Then I recall his or her smile, some story we shared, some way we reached across the void to link our humanity. And I feel honored to have been even a 50-minute, 6-month part of their lives.

Godspeed to you, my friend. May we meet again.

Rhett DeVane
Fiction with a Southern Twist

Rhett's website

Writers4Higher Blog

3 comments:

Sun Singer said...

The dental hygienist who attends to my stubborn teeth several times a year is very personable, but I always wonder if she would recognize me if we saw each other in a grocery store. It's nice to know keeping a distance isn't a part of every health professional's philosophy. Your patients are obviously special; no doubt they feel the same way about you.

Malcolm

JoElle said...

Beautiful words from a beautiful soul. That's who you are. You are one of those rare people who touch people, in a good way, not only with words written but spoken. We should all remember that even the briefest of contact we have with others can make a difference. You are a wise and kind woman.

paulakiger said...

Wonderful piece, Rhett. I am not the kind of person who can keep up impermeable walls between the various parts of my life either -- that can have its price but clearly it has enriched yours, even when the sharing is of the loss/painful nature. I think I used to misunderstand the role of your dental hygienist hours in your life - this post definitely helps me "get" it! Condolences re: the patient.