I’m watching my hospice patient die, in his bed. Above him on the wall hangs his wedding photo; in his hand are sacred images and a rosary wrapped tightly. I bet on his wedding day, he never thought that many years later lung disease would claim his life. Not for one moment did he think he’d be here – dying much earlier than the long life he planned to live – with his wife at his bedside, broken and keeping vigil. My heart is heavy as it observes the beginning and end of their journey together.
As the nurse appointed to manage his pain, I am privy to the all-too-intimate moments of life at its end. All that is left in this room is love. I’m wrapped up in it, pulled and compelled by it. It’s in all the details: the many, many family members here, how gently and lovingly they talk to and touch their loved one, the music – the patient’s favorite, of course – and even how family members adjust his clothing and position to make sure he is comfortable. (more…)