“Looks like it’s still seventeen, Liz, like last December’s—Have you lost any weight?” asked Cayce the nurse practitioner from hospice as she removed the tape measure from my upper arm and slipped it into her bag. Her soft brown eyes opened onto her compassion like suns warming ocean currents, her face masked, her blue uniform pressed. She had already checked my vital signs and troubling symptoms.

“No, I don’t think so, and my clothes still fit—even though loose. Since it got cold, I only wear turtlenecks, sweaters, and sweat pants.” Over the years, my sister-in-law’s Christmas sweaters still afford me a daily change of color that brighten my day; others, as well, at times.

“That color—royal blue—sure looks good on you, Liz, with your silver-white hair. Must keep you warm.” I nodded, then she added, “But I see your breathing’s more difficult—looks like your concentrator’s set on three now,” she said stooping over to check the monitor. Never could I have guessed that I’d be so dependent on oxygen, recommended by my pulmonologist since 2013: then, it was nightly, at one liter per minute.

“The change is subtle, but constant. Each day is different, bit I still adhere to my usual routine. Exercise is critical, but with the help of Chronic Pain Anonymous I’m learning to gentle myself. Sometimes, I only do half my routine and let the others go.” From behind Cayce, the snow’s brilliance shone through the windows of the French door, brightening my dining room.

“Well, you still qualify for hospice, Liz. You’re doing very well with all of this. Be sure and let us know if you’ve questions or need anything,” she said, collecting her equipment. “We’re here for you.”