Saturday, January 07, 2006


...about an elderly couple, we'll call them John and Mary. Mary was a home hospice patient and her husband John was taking care of her. Mary came into the hospital, and that day John said he was feeling sick. John ended up in the emergency room and also was admitted to the hospital. Despite a lot of treatment, John didn't get better, there was just too much wrong. Mary, meanwhile, was stabilized up in the hospice unit. Someone took her down to visit him each day. She was worried sick about him. Yesterday there was a family meeting, and John said he wanted to give up the aggressive treatments and just go into hospice and be with Mary. He came up last night, and staff pushed their beds together so that they could watch TV and then doze off holding hands. John looked absolutely awful.

Mary was thrilled to have her husband with her. We wondered how well she understood what was happening to him. But I caught one glimpse of her face, one unguarded second when she was looking over at him with raw heartbreak. She knew. The social worker confirmed this and said that Mary could only hold onto 'knowing' for a second at a time.

Their daughter told me that when John went to the hospital, he left, on the kitchen table, a box of photos of them and his will. Their daughter believes he was ready for them both to die.

John died shortly after midnight. They didn't even get a full night together. I don't know how Mary is, this morning. She's got good people caring for her, but... say a prayer for her?


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