The nurses and hospice staff kept asking me if I wanted them to give Michelle a bath.
I said no the first few times, I didn’t want to disturb her.
I was scared.
Every time she would get up she would suffer from God awful hallucinations.
She was finally resting comfortably and I didn’t want to take any chances.
“How do you feel about us giving her a bath today John?” they asked again – for the third day in a row.
After asking a handful of questions to ensure that she would not wake up, or be disturbed, I reluctantly agreed.
As they prepared to give my wife her sponge bath, I was equally scared, and nervous.
She was teetering on sixty pounds at this point. So fragile. So close to the end.
They told me they were about to begin, so I went and sat on the couch in her room, just about ten feet from the hospice bed which had now become her home.
In walked Kim, Michelle’s friend.
“They’re about to give her a bath,” I said. Frazzled.
“Oh,” she said back.
I gently shook my head, as to show her my concern.
As I looked over, I could see one of the nurses removing Michelle’s shirt, while the other nurse closed the curtain.
I saw her back.
The back that I use to massage.
The back that I use to kiss.
“You have the sexiest back,” I would tell her often.
“You’re so weird John, it’s a back!” she would say back with a chuckle.
“No, it’s your back,” I would respond, awestruck that such a beauty would even look at me twice – let alone, be my wife.
The one that I loved.
That wasn’t the back I saw on that cold, white January day.
What I saw was something that scared me, and scarred me.
Something that is still embedded into my brain today, just over seventeen months later.
A back so thin, so brittle and so worn – that a husband could not help but be forever damaged from the sight.
“Would you mind if I helped them John?” Kim asked.
“Bathe her?” I responded back, surprised.
“Yes,” she responded.
“No, not at all.”
To others, it might seem like a simple act of kindness.
A routine gesture from a friend wanting to help care for a beautiful soul who was nearing the end of her human experience.
But to me, it was so much more.
To me, it was an act of love that would provide a comfort to Michelle, when I could not do it.
To me, it was one of my wife’s favorite people caring for her, in a moment in which I was incapable.
To me, it was – and is, a memory that stays with me to this today.
So heart felt and genuine, that is balances out the horror of an otherwise unbearable moment.