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It is 2 a.m. I’m gently nudged into awareness by this snippet of a dream: My hospice nurse comes daily and gives me an injection. I feel very well.

Wholeness streams from my depths as I catch these words and express them. My helper, unknown from reality, suggests a numinous presence emanating from the Ground of Being. Within her aura, I quicken, breathe easy, anticipate her treatment. She knows what to do and I surrender to her touch. The grace holds until the next twenty-four hours: its seamless minutes infuse my spirit with joy.

Indeed, I am very well!


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.


Ahead of me, cars and trucks inched up the exit ramp curving to the left, onto North Kingshighway Boulevard, site of the sprawling Barnes-Jewish Hospital and clinics. The afternoon sun wilted long grasses along the pavement; the air, sticky with humidity. City pigeons scrounged for seeds.

And yes, there was someone near the stoplight: short, stocky, walking with a limp. A slouch hat covered his head; a graying beard, his square jaw. Safety pins fastened his wrinkled khaki shirt. Around his neck hung three white plastic rosaries of varying lengths and a cardboard sign scrawled with words in black letters. Behind him, stood a battered shopping cart, filled with bags and opened boxes, their contents spilling over its side.

Missing was the City’s ordinance against panhandling, usually posted near the stoplight.

Upon seeing me wave, he hurried to my car, his dark eyes glinting in the sun, his wide mouth grinning, revealing missing teeth. He reminded me of a fun-loving grandpa, full of stories; of an old laborer with a broken body.

“God blesses you!” he repeated over and over, welcoming me into his home. No longer invisible, someone had seen him and he knew it. I was humbled.

Long ago, a friend had taught me that nothing is as it seems.



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