Living Will – Part I

[A wife in a coma at a local nursing home is visited by her husband each day from 7 am to 4 pm.  This is his story]

She laughs and asks him how he feels, her hair shining and eyes bright. He loves her eyes – they were the first thing he noticed about her.  She actually smiled with her eyes, he thought.   So, how are you, she asked?    Did you remember your meds?   How’s your blood pressure?  He knew she loved him

He awakened.  He felt cold.   It was morning.  Did he sleep?  Of course he did, for he dreamed of her.   He felt a familiar pang of emptiness realizing it only a dream.  He dismissed it quickly and groaned to his feet.  I have to have that furnace looked at, he thought.  It shut down when it needed a cleaning – no air.  His mind raced back to the time when she couldn’t catch her breath – the fear in her eyes, the panicked phone call and the emergency room.  A stroke they said.  Very serious, she may not make it.  A respirator in the hospital but she eventually breathed on her own and finally went to a skilled nursing home.  No one knew if she would recover.  After 18 months in a coma, no one thought she would, except for him.

Not now, don’t think now, there’s no time.  Time to get ready and get out to the car, he thought.   Mornings now reminded him of the army.  You barely have time to wake up before a life and death struggle.  No time for regrets, fantasies or hopes – duty and honor and one foot in front of the other.

He escaped to the shower, which he loved, because it warmed him. He wished he could wear the wool shirt but it was too itchy!   Everything itched – bills, repairs, friendships, hobbies and commercials, those damn commercials!  My life, he thought, has come down to someone trying to convince me to do something I don’t need or want.  When had he become so annoyed by everything?  He knew.  It was the day when the smile drained from her eyes.  He knew what he really wanted.  He wanted that smile back.  He worried he would never see it again.

He dressed quickly. Before he left, he took out two handkerchiefs and sprayed each carefully with just a bit of aftershave.  He never wore aftershave but it was nice on his hankies.  He had to rush; he didn’t want to be late.

Parking was too far away even at 7:00 am.  His heart beat faster on the walk.  He felt the warm air as he walked into the lobby.  He took the familiar path through the halls to her room.  He still felt excited when he saw her.  She didn’t see him.  Those eyes, her eyes, never opened anymore.  He thought he saw an occasional flutter. Her pillow was not right.  The bed, which was filled with heated, rolling sand, was disorganized.  He kissed her and fluffed her pillow.  He held her hand.  She’s cold he thought.  He placed it under the blanket close to the warm sand and covered it with her blanket.

Her breakfast arrived.  They thoughtfully brought it for him since she was tube fed. He sat and talked about the furnace, the house and his blood pressure.  He knew she wanted to know.  How long had it been since she couldn’t breathe – one year, two?   No time for regrets!  She is here now and she needs him.  He loves and needs her too.  He watches her clench her fists and he pretends she is responding to him.  Sometimes she grips so tight that her nails dig into her palms.

The staff asked about removing the tube.  No, the time is not right.  Her Living Will permitted him to direct her end of life care.  He knew he could order them to withhold treatment but he would not – not yet.  He would care for her.  There was much to be done.  Her room always needs some straightening.  Her roommate was sometimes loud and he made sure the curtains were pulled.  She liked her privacy. He was glad she didn’t realize where she was.   He knew she wouldn’t be pleased. But he knew that, when they were together, everything was bearable.  Lunch came.  He picked and watched as she clenched her fists.  As the afternoon drew down, he sat close, opened her hands and held them and obtained his own nourishment.

He talked to the nurses and towards the end of the day her doctor appeared.  No change. Keep her comfortable.   Reconsider the feeding tube?   Not today!   She needed him today and he needed her.  She loved him.  He stayed till 4 and before he left he kissed her cheek. She is still soft, he thought.  She is so beautiful.  No sadness – no time for that.  This was his life and hers.  They were both on rolling sand.   She would do the same for him.

He had to get home and get the furnace looked at and schedule an appointment with his doctor.  She would want that.  He turned to walk out and looked back.   He remembered something.  He walked to her bed and reached into his pocket and took out two hankies and rolled and folded each and carefully placed one in each hand.  “I’ll see you tomorrow hon, he said” And as he left, he thought he noticed her hand move.

To be continued…

mm About Leonard L. Shober

Leonard L. Shober has focused a quarter century on representing clients in their estates and tax matters. He began his legal career in an estate planning practice. However, his interest in taxes and estate planning led him to pursue a Master of Laws (LLM) from Temple which he completed in 1994. Len continued his estate and tax practice which ultimately led to a focus on the needs of the elderly and disabled. At Shober & Rock, Len focuses on elder law, tax and estate planning and estate and trust administration.

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