“Hi, Liz! It’s Alice. Come to check on you again—Finish your nebulizer first, though.” Her voice fills my home with morning’s brightness as she settles around my dining room table, its center resplendent with red-fringed yellow tulips. Tapered fingers unzip her case and whip out her computer, notepad, and pen as I finish my breathing treatment and adjust the nasal prongs of my oxygen.

“Good to see you again, Alice,” I say, supporting my steps with my cane and sitting opposite her. On the table was therapy putty for my hands lest my terminal illness further weaken them, and a glass of water to loosen mucus from another lung disease, prior to coughing it up in an emesis basin. “Not much new to report. My weakness, shortness of breath, and speech worsen, but imperceptibly so. Certainly, I’m not where I was one month ago, but I still get by with my helpers—Even take short walks in the sun. Still keep up my deep breathing and stretching exercises.”

Her dark eyes warm me, despite the put-off of her black mask as she takes my vital signs: all normal—they always are.

“Seems like I’m really into my old age. I never dreamed it would look like this. Often atop my bed, I pray, stillness enfolding my body and psyche; at others, grief for my intransigent stuff seeping into global darkness like raw sewerage. Here is where the mantra, ”Mercy!” comes in, cried with vehemence.” She leans toward me and listens, not wanting to miss a word. 

“Yet, each day, there’s something new to learn. Yesterday’s was critical: stop seeking answers where there are none, a waste of vital energy.” She nods and with her eyes hugs me before leaving.