Three hours later, I heard the same directive, this time from Gail, the registered nurse who opened me to nursing, her squeaky-clean smile heartening me as she pulled a slick folder from her carrycase on wheels. Beneath the hospice logo, dotted by a yellow butterfly, appeared the words, Every Moment.

“There’s lots of helpful information here,” she said as she opened the handbook to the section, Your Circle of Support. “From now on, our medical director will be overseeing your care. His name appears on this purple form, the do-not-resuscitate-outside-the-hospital—For the paramedics should they happen by. Put it on your fridge with this magnet; it has our 24/7 emergency number. Call anytime. And I do mean that—We’re here for you.” My hand trembled as I signed the form.

“And if your symptoms worsen, our hospice facility will be your emergency room—No more hospitals. If we can’t stabilize your pain and send you home, we’ll keep you.” I hiccoughed. She was talking about me, further down this road.

From somewhere, I hung on to Gail’s words. “And a chaplain, a hospice aide, and a volunteer can also help out, if you wish—The other four sections, here, are for your review.” I leaned against the back of my armchair while kids’ laughter from the nearby elementary school lightened my mood.

Next came the review of my medication sheet, also kept in the folder. “Liz, when Dexamethasone, the little blue pill, stops working, that’s it—And with the return of your symptoms, the real work of hospice begins.”

Gail caught my dread and paused before saying, “And another thing—How we measure our patients’ decline that warrants our continued care. Instead of using the bathroom scale, we measure upper arms with this tape measure, also kept in your folder—Here, let me measure yours.” Despite the directness of Gail’s words, her rumpled navy uniform gave her a relaxed appearance.

I was suddenly played out, sipping ice water to stay focused. It was a long hour.

As we parted, her seasoned hands quieted my spirit.