But my solitary walk is not without coaches along the way: seasoned professionals with exquisite sensitivity to their patients’ needs. The next day, they began arriving at my front door.

“Hi Liz, I’m Cyndi, the hospice social worker, come to sign you up for our services,” she said, as the sun-drenched morning enhanced her ash-blonde hair, falling softly below her ears. As she stepped inside my home, she swung the backpack to her other hand and followed me to the dining room table. “I understand you also worked with hospice—the paperwork involved in the sign-up, and all that,” she added, adjusting her rimless glasses upon her nose.

“Yes, but I see there are more forms to fill out—must be hard to keep up with it all.” In the 1990s, Medicare’s scrutiny of fraudulent hospice providers had felt like shifting sands sweeping across paper gulches.

“Well, we do it anyway—our managers are adept at such things and keep us informed.” Her eyes softened, inviting my participation as she began explaining each form.

Then began the sign-up, the little blue pill buoying my energy. After I fingered the last two signatures upon the dotted line in her computer, it was official.

“You do understand, Liz, that from here on, you call the shots. Should you change your mind, you can revoke this agreement, any time. We’re here to serve you,” she said as her loop earrings brushed the sides of her neck. My surprise must have prompted her continuing, “We love what we do—been serving patients in their homes for over thirty years.”