Thank You

Hospice: The Gift We Never Wanted to Receive

Hospice:  The gift we never wanted to receive.

She’s going to die.  In a couple of weeks.

Do me a favor doc.

Take a knife. A really, really sharp one.  Stab me in the chest.  Then, slice it open.  Rip my heart out of my chest and pounce on it.

Because that is, in essence, what you just did.

The time stamp.

Once you have heard it, you can never ‘unhear’ it.  The words, the moment, the feeling – they stick with you.  Forever.


One of the most dreaded words you can hear.


Rip my heart out and tear it to shreds.


One of the worst things I have ever been told.


One of the most amazing gifts we were ever given.


You.  Saved.  Me. 


In some way.

You saved her too.

I rarely cry as I write.

But I have tears right now.

I think about those two and a half years of hell.

I think about the constant battle.  The constant fear. The constant knowledge that her cancer was not one to be beaten.

I think about the timestamp being given.

I think about telling Michelle.  Over and over again.  Because each time she would wake up in the hospital bed she would forget what I had told her a few hours prior.  And she would demand to know what was going on. And I would have to tell her again that she was going to die.  And that she was going to die very soon.

The most heartbreaking tears you can imagine.  Over and over again.  Because apparently living that experience once wasn’t enough pain for us to endure.

I think about leaving the hospital that day on our way to hospice.  The fear.  The heartbreak.  The knowledge that her life was about to come to an end.  The knowledge that our journey together was nearing completion.

And then, I think about hospice.

And how they saved me.

I think about how they cared for my wife.

I think about how they cared for me.

The care they showed.

The love they displayed.

The hope they provided.

For two and a half years as Michelle battled the beast inside of her my anticipatory grief was so great. So gut wrenchingly severe.

I made it my job to be Michelle’s caregiver.

I searched the Earth for alternative medicines.  For cutting edge surgeries.  For innovative clinical trials.

I drove her doctors crazy.  I drove her nurses crazy.

I drove her crazy.

I drove myself crazy.

In a quest to do something that could not be done.

To save her.

I was caregiver first.

I was husband second.


You gave Michelle her husband back.

You gave me my wife back.

For twenty three days.

You allowed me to lay with her.

You allowed me to comfort her.

You allowed me to talk to her.

You allowed me to be with her.

You allowed me to love her.

And yes, on that morning that she passed away, you allowed me to do something that I will never, ever forget.

You allowed me to read her eulogy to her.  As I cried like a baby. As she lay motionless.

But I know that she could hear me.

And, in those moments that nobody wants to talk about, you were there.

You were there to help me wrestle her to the bed.  When it had to be done.

You were there to bathe her when she was unconscious, in the most gentle of ways.

You were there to order me out of the room. When you saw a destroyed husband who needed a break from the vision before him.

You were there to talk to me.  Each and every day.  Multiple times a day.

About her.  About where she stood.

About me.  About how I was coping.

About the past.  About the present.  About the future.

About our little girl.

You gave me peace.

You gave me comfort.

Despite the immense suffering that she endured. Despite the God-awful terminal agitation that she experienced. You honored her with the dignity that she so deserved.

The gratitude that I feel cannot be adequately explained.

Twenty three days of pure hell.

Made survivable.

Because of YOU.

You saved me.

And, in some way.

You saved her.

Hospice:  The gift we never wanted to receive.

© Copyright 2017 John Polo

7 thoughts on “Hospice: The Gift We Never Wanted to Receive

  1. This is beautiful John. My husband died in a hospital so he didn’t go to Hospice but end of life care is so important. For everyone involved.

    I will have to share this with my cousin. She is a Hospice nurse and she’s amazing.

  2. John, this is simply beautiful. Tears are running down my face while I remember the hospice care at home. For him and for me, his caretaker, but also and more importantly, his wife. I don’t know what I would have done in those last few days, moments without them. I didn’t recognize it so much then as I do now. I’m sorry for your loss and what you endured before and during this last year. Our timelines are similar and each day, the grief monster has a mind of its own…when to visit, when to lurk in the background. ((Hugs))

  3. John your speaking of something I know so well,ip it isn’t a spouse although that felt like a death that rose again to be the endless pain that took 25 years typo just be not as painful anymore. I’m speaking of my father is took care of for continuously for 5 yes before his passing. I knew about hospice for many years but it seems that a caught amnesia for 4 1/2 yes. It was father and my PCP that took me under her wing and gave me the greatest gift of all, the gift gave the knowledge that there was someone who I could call anytime night and even if it was just share my fears. They bathed my father everyday got him up for breakfast and checked him 3 times a week to make sure that everything was still okay. The night he passed the hospice nurse cleaned and prepared him for he’s final journey with such love and caring patience, but most of all it allowed me to Moran the impending lose of dad and best buddy girl could have, I will for ever be grateful and have the highest respect for all hospice/nurses empolyees.

  4. John, I am a hospice volunteer and your words are so appreciated. Not because I want to be acknowledged, but because you helped me clearly understand how it feels in your shoes. No, I cannot know how it feels, truly, but the little things you described make me think carefully about how I am with my own patients.
    I wish you and your little girl peace and calm. You are a good man and I am so sorry you had to go through such hell. But maybe, just maybe, you will give another caregiver permission to admit their needs for support. Too often I find family members are too hard on themselves when they feel they need to be strong for their loved ones.
    Getting help is good. It is life-saving. It is a gift for the taking.
    I wish you peace.

  5. Hospices, Hospice volunteers, directors, nurses and doctors. They’re wonderful. It is terrible when you need them. It is wonderful that they are there when you do.

  6. My wife Helga made me promise long ago that I would not let her die in a hospital. She was a midwife and hated the thought of being in a hospital. I barely made it. She was hospitalized the last five weeks of her life, fight pneumonia, but passed away due to complications of a traumatic brain injury. After five and a half years her body had simply had enough. I was her caregiver for most of that time. I didn’t want her to be in a nursing home. She would not have wanted that either. I had about three days notice that she was going to die. The doctor said her body functions were shutting down and it was time to move her to hospice if that is what I wanted. It took two days to arrange but we made the trip on a Friday afternoon. She passed away at 11 AM Saturday morning. They made sure she had everything she needed and was kept comfortable. But the folks at hospice gave me something as well. For about 18 hours I was just her husband again, not her caregiver too. I was able to lay beside her, holding her in my arms and telling her how much I loved her and not to be scared, that people she loved were waiting on her. I was holding her in my arms when she took her last breath, just as both of us would have wanted it. Hospice is a terrible thought, but a wonderful reality.

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