“Their Dying Wishes” – observations from a hospice volunteer – The New York Times

handsLaura Segall for The New York Times

by Ann Neuman

“I met Mr. C. because he was dying and his wife needed someone to sit with him Saturday nights while she attended Mass. I was a relatively new hospice volunteer, not long out of training, and Mr. C. was my first assignment with a patient at home, rather than in a hospital or health care facility. He had been given a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease 25 years before I first entered their small apartment in the Baruch housing projects, which stand where the Williamsburg Bridge meets Manhattan.

“After Mrs. C. slipped out, Mr. C. and I tried to get acquainted. But his disease had long ago ravaged his motor skills; his jaw, loose and roving, wouldn’t obey. I couldn’t understand a word he was saying. Insistent, he shifted from tell to show, waving his wandering, shaking hand at an instrument case beside the dresser. Inside I found a cuatro, a small Latin American guitar with a filigree dimple on each side. Its wooden face was worn thin as an eggshell from years of use. The neck wiggled, and it had no strings, but when I handed the instrument to Mr. C., he embraced it as if it were an old friend. He was calmed by its familiar presence. ‘Strings,’ he said, slowly and clearly.”

Read this column at The New York Times in its entirety here.

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