Hospice: The Gift We Never Wanted to Receive
“She’s going to die. In a couple of weeks.”
Do me a favor doc.
Take a knife. A really, really sharp one. Stab me in the chest. Then, slice it open. Rip my heart out of my chest and pounce on it.
Because that is, in essence, what you just did.
The time stamp.
Once you have heard it, you can never “unhear” it. The words, the moment, the feeling — they stick with you. Forever.
One of the most dreaded words I could hear.
Rip my heart out and tear it to shreds.
One of the worst things I have ever been told.
One of the most amazing gifts we were ever given.
You. Saved. Me.
And in some way, you saved her, too.
I think about those two and a half years of hell.
I think about the constant battle. The constant fear. The constant knowledge that her cancer was not one to be beaten.
I think about the time stamp being given.
I think about telling Michelle over and over again. Because each time she woke up in the hospital bed she forgot what I had told her a few hours prior. And she demanded to know what was going on. And I would have to tell her again that she was going to die, and that she was going to die very soon.
The most heartbreaking tears you can imagine. Over and over again. Because apparently living that experience once wasn’t enough pain for us to endure.
I think about leaving the hospital that day on our way to hospice. The fear. The heartbreak. The knowledge that her life was about to come to an end. The knowledge that our journey together was nearing completion.
And then, I think about hospice.
And how they saved me.
I think about how they cared for my wife.
I think about how they cared for me.
The care they showed.
The love they displayed.
The hope they provided.
For two and a half years as Michelle battled the beast inside of her my anticipatory grief was so great. So gut wrenchingly severe.
I made it my job to be Michelle’s caregiver.
I searched the Earth for alternative medicines, for cutting edge surgeries, for innovative clinical trials.
I annoyed her doctors. I annoyed her nurses.
I annoyed her.
I annoyed myself.
It was a quest to do something that could not be done.
To save her.
I was caregiver first.
I was husband second.
You gave Michelle her husband back.
You gave me my wife back.
For 23 days.
You allowed me to lay with her.
You allowed me to comfort her.
You allowed me to talk to her.
You allowed me to be with her.
You allowed me to love her.
And yes, on that morning she passed away, you allowed me to do something I will never, ever forget.
You allowed me to read her eulogy to her as I cried like a baby. As she lay motionless.
But I know she could hear me.
And, in those moments that nobody wants to talk about, you were there.
You were there to help me wrestle her to the bed when it had to be done.
You were there to bathe her when she was unconscious, in the most gentle of ways.
You were there to order me out of the room when you saw a destroyed husband who needed a break from the vision before him.
You were there to talk to me. Each and every day. Multiple times a day.
About her. About where she stood.
About me. About how I was coping.
About the past. About the present. About the future.
About our little girl.
You gave me peace.
You gave me comfort.
Despite the immense suffering she endured — despite the God-awful terminal agitation she experienced– you honored her with the dignity that she so deserved.
The gratitude that I feel cannot be adequately explained.
23 days of pure hell made survivable.
Because of you.
You saved me.
And, in some way.
You saved her.
Hospice was the gift we never wanted to receive.
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Thinkstock image by Evgeniy Anikeev