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FEATURES: Art of Nursing

Bon Voyage: The Death of Jim

Arbrador, Lora

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AJN, American Journal of Nursing: March 2003 - Volume 103 - Issue 3 - p 60
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FIGURE

Figure
Figure:
Egg tempera on gesso panel, 47″ × 36″, 2002.

Lora Arbrador is the “brush name” of Laura Goldbaum, MS, FNP, a telephone advice nurse at Physician's Choice Medical Group, San Francisco. Her work may be seen at www.yellowyolk.com. Arbrador dedicates this painting to Elizabeth Plummer, RN, her instructor at Pace University Lienhard School of Nursing, Pleasantville, NY, who died January 18, 2003.

Arbrador writes: “I was working as a research nurse at a county hospital in San Francisco. One day my patient, Jim, who had AIDS, called me and said, ‘I am dropping out of the study, and I am dropping out of life.’ Then he added, ‘I'm having a going-away party, and I would love if you would come.’ He'd made up his mind; he didn't want to die in agony as had former friends and lovers.

“When I arrived at the party, Jim took my coat and hugged me. Flowers and candles filled every available space. The food was opulent, complete with a cake inscribed, ‘Bon Voyage Jim.’ This was the plan: whoever was there at daybreak would be present for his suicide. I'd already decided not to stay. Two days later a friend told me: at dawn, about seven people were in Jim's bedroom. Jim lay back in the arms of a friend as his lover read him a bedtime story. Then Jim took the fatal dose of pills, washed down with vodka. He fell asleep within half an hour. In two hours he was dead.

“Over the next several months, the painting took shape in my mind. It took six years to complete.”

© 2003 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.