Mr. L was admitted to the hospital with advanced gastric cancer. Both he and his wife were Holocaust survivors. He was kind, soft spoken and loved to tell stories about the past. His wife was almost the exact opposite ­– stern, distrustful and closed.

Over the course of a few days it was apparent that Mr. L was truly in the last weeks of his life. As accepting as he was, she was not. The nurses had a very difficult time with her as they tried to care for him. Nothing was ever right. One afternoon, she vented to me about the nurses not putting the tray table back next to her husband’s bed. I acknowledged that he had little control in his life, and we would try and be more aware of these things.  

As a palliative care NP, I later realized that it was Mr. L’s wife that felt like she didn’t have control and sought her out in the cafeteria the next day.  We talked about the inevitability of losing her husband, and she shared some of her emotions to honor her husband’s wishes to go home and die peacefully. I felt that I had reached her in some small way.When Mr. L was leaving the hospital to go home with hospice, I hugged her goodbye. When I turned to the door to wave, Mrs. L gave me a wink and blew me a kiss.

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