“Hi, Liz, I’m back to check on you again. Sorry about last week—more patients than I could handle.” It was Alice, my regular hospice nurse, tall, willowy, her ivory hands withdrawing her computer from her pink-embossed case as she sat down across from me. From her blue eyes emanated spirit, experience, and commitment to the dying process in my body, one day at a time—another coach to support this new venture into the Unknown.

She smiled as she looked around. “And that wreath on your front door—I had to touch it—flocked with berries, I think—lovely! And other decorations, as well.” Not all of them were given away, including my mother’s angel ornaments crisscrossing the tree in the hallway. Across from us, a white poinsettia hovered over crèche figurines, fired by a potter-friend, years ago.

“My helper Chrissy was here last week. The pine rope and bows across my porch railing—that’s more of her work.” But no seven-foot tree, still boxed in the basement, which had graced my glassed-in screen porch in past years.

Then, Alice asked her usual questions about my medication, appetite, sleep, and bowel functioning, took my vital signs—all were normal, save shortness of breath and weakness and still no pain. “Looks like you’ve no issues with self-care and dressing,” she added.

I nodded, though still dependent upon my clothing stick, my sock aid.

As she recorded her findings into her computer, I asked, “Have you worked with patients with ILD, my diagnosis? What does their end-time look like?”—Questions, until now, I’d been unable to formulate.

She paused in her work and said, “Yes—There’s no pain—only shortness of breath and weakness. And when your symptoms worsen, drugs will keep you comfortable as possible. That’s what we do.” Again, she smiled.