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Ghosts

For months, as I’ve visited Evan as his hospice social worker, he’s been praying to die. In his early nineties, he has been dealing with colorectal cancer for more than four years, and he’s flat tired out. As he sees it, the long days of illness have turned his life into a tedious, meaningless dirge with nothing to look forward to other than its end. He’s done, finished. He often talks about killing himself.

On

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Tucking Him In

Peggy Murphy ~

I need to see Justin before my workday commences. I’m a social worker at the outpatient cancer center where Justin has been treated for an aggressive colon cancer.

Seeing him today means visiting him in the hospital, up the road from the center.

It’s almost surreal.

When I first met Justin, nearly two years ago, he looked every bit the linebacker–well over six feet tall, with a girth

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A Soldier’s Tale

Scott Janssen ~

“You ever work with vets?” asks the young man sitting across from me in the hospital waiting room.

He’s been sitting there all morning. So have I. Since 5:30 am, my father-in-law, age eighty-eight, has been undergoing surgery to remove a tumor in his lung. The surgeons just sent word that they’ve finished, and my wife and her mother have gone to the post-op room to see him.

Waiting

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Fear No Evil

Scott Janssen ~

“You need to get here now!” The nurse whispers anxiously. It’s after midnight. One of our hospice patients has just died at home, and her husband is threatening to shoot himself when the funeral home shows up.

“Has the funeral home been called?” I ask.

“No.”

“Does he have a gun or weapon?”

“We’re out in the country. There are deer heads on the wall.”

I

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Epilogue

Sara Bybee ~

It’s 2:02 pm when my pager beeps. I pull it out and read: “Juan may have just passed. Going in now.”

As a social worker in the region’s only cancer specialty hospital, I provide emotional support for patients and their families–including talking about their wishes for end-of-life care.

Juan is a sixty-five-year-old Ecuadorian man with stage 4 pancreatic cancer. I’ve known him for about a year. Polite and easy

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