Room for Marriage
I walk down sterile echoing halls
I come a stranger into numbered room
Room where my husband lies trapped
Room where our intimacies are denied
Denied the freedom to live as he will
Denied right to eat sleep be as he needs
Needs to be more than a name on a chart
Needs to be far more than just a disease
Disease has no feelings no will no voice
Disease has overrun so much of his life
Life the hospital is frittering away
Life too soon to be ended to remain
Remain in this place of sterile echoes
Remain here where joy has no home
Home is waiting with all he holds dear
Home where wife and children are near
Near to his living and the coming of death
Near things he loves and familiar places
Places arranged for his comfort alone
Places not sterile but comfy and warm
Warm love surrounds him with tender care
Warm volunteers who come only to tend
Tend to his concerns listen to what he says
Give information and provide soothing support
Support for the whole of the man he is
Support as he navigates this final journey
Journey made not only by him
Journey made by us all together
Together sustained by hospice caregivers
Together with respect for all he wants
Wants an easing of pain and attempts to cure
Wants family laughter and comfort measures
Measures the life lived in his days
Measures only what’s needed to bring him peace
Peace absent back in those sterile echoing halls
Peace of the sustenance of familiarity’s embrace
Embrace of his daughter and his son
Embraces and tears with a loving wife
Wife to tend in ways no hospital nurse can
Wife to love him in health and in sickness
Sickness that will steal him away far too soon
Sickness doesn’t become the sum of his days
Days that pass with television and conversation
Days where sleep and waking just flow
Flow into a three AM living room picnic
Flow through the last days of a marriage
Marriage of medical support and home
Marriage allowed to be real until his death
A few years ago, our dentist died of cancer. His wife was his hygienist, and she told Jim that he’d died fairly suddenly, and had spent the last three weeks of his life in the hospital.
That bothered Jim greatly. He stated again and again that he wanted to die at home. Though it was daunting to consider, I supported him in that wish. However, his cancer was diagnosed as a result of treatment for a swollen and painful leg that was diagnosed as deep vein thrombosis.
He spent several days in the hospital receiving life-saving treatment for that condition – and another ten when he had a minor heart attack as a result of his first (and only) chemotherapy session.
Those stays made it clear – he languished in the hospital – unable to sleep with the light and noise, unable to relax due to round the clock medical procedures despite the fact that his condition was terminal from the time he was diagnosed.
When he came home from that second stay, he was determined to stay at home – and to die here, in the spot where I am currently sitting, on the bed he made for us both.
Because of hospice, this was possible, while assuring that Jim had the care he needed to be comfortable, and offering something the hospital didn’t – care and support for me, as well. Our hospice nurse, Caroline, was fantastic at handling requests and adapting as Jim grew sicker. His chaplain, Mike, was caring and kind.
They made a difficult transition far more navigable, and made it possible for Jim to do just what he most wanted – to die at home, surrounded by love.