A beautiful story shared by Tom Tanno in the 'Los Angeles Times' is a never to be missed one.
I was a newly trained hospice volunteer, and E. was to be my first patient. I had to work up the nerve to cross the threshold.
After gently clearing my throat and shuffling my feet in an attempt to wake her, I bent low to look at her face. Suddenly, her eyes opened wide.
She was as startled as me and said, in a forced whisper, "Who are you?"
"I've come to visit for a while," I replied.
"Why, are you being punished?" she deadpanned.
She was bedridden, her bones fragile. During our next visit, I asked the nurse if E. could go outside in a wheelchair. The nurse said it was up to E.
I maneuvered her down the cracked and bumpy sidewalk into a nearby neighborhood. She lifted her face to the sun and opened her mouth to its warmth. She stayed that way until I parked the chair under a shade tree. I sat down with the trunk as my backrest.
Those meetings under the tree became our routine, where we shared stories of our lives. We quickly bonded through unabashed, intimate conversations.
E. told me she wasn't so much afraid of dying as she was of going to hell. She had married young, to a very ambitious man, and as the years progressed, his business flourished, but their marriage did not. He increasingly spent more and more time at the office, with colleagues and away from her. Estrangement set in.
She found a job as a secretary and over time fell prey to the attentions and intentions of her boss — afternoon "lunches" at a motel.
One day, on the ride back to the office, her boss spotted his wife in town, waiting to cross a street. With a violent shove, he sent E. into the passenger side footwell, hissing at her to stay down until he was sure he had avoided detection.
It was a humiliating and illuminating moment for E. She ended the affair. But the deed had been done. She was officially an adulterer. Worse, a mortal sinner. And now, as her life was about to end, she could not shake the guilt and dread that God was about to deliver her to the eternal fires of damnation.
She wept as I knelt beside her chair and held her.
I know something about the Catholic church, having been an altar boy. I reminded her about the convenience of confession. "From what I just saw, I'll assume you are truly remorseful." "Yes of course," she said. "And you have formally confessed this, yes?" "Once a month for the past 66 years," she said. "Well, then, I think God has gotten the message ... you're off the hook!" "Do you think so?" she asked earnestly. "I know so," I told her.
Within a year, she began to rapidly decline. During the day, I'd find her in a deep sleep. The nurses said she'd lay awake most nights and was eating very little. I started setting my alarm for 1:30 a.m. to make the 40-minute drive to her facility in the San Fernando Valley. I'd sit on a folding chair and move in close, so our whispered conversations would not wake others.
For the first time in almost two years after I started visiting with E., I was going to be away from her, to make good on a long-planned vacation in the Yucatán.
But before I could make my next visit, I got a call from the hospice volunteer coordinator. E. had died while I was away. Peacefully, in her sleep, at age 87.
Read full story here: http://www.latimes.com/style/laaffairs/la-hm-la-affairs-tom-tanno-20180331-story.html