I believe that each hospice patient provides me with the opportunity to visit their “house.” I imagine their life as a long house with a door at either end. The house is filled with all of their hopes and dreams, happiness and sadness, disappointments and fears, tears and smiles, occupations and skills, loves gained and lost. It has pictures of family and friends, schoolmates, coworkers, neighbors—mementos of all their experiences.

I knock on the front door and am invited in. I hold the person by their hand. From time to time I am allowed to walk behind, other times ahead, and on occasion I walk beside, observing everything that my patient has been through, everything that she has seen and everything that has happened to her. I follow the path that my patient has laid out for me to observe—at times willingly, other times begrudgingly—through the simple and complex rooms of their elaborate house.

When we arrive at the rear door; I open it for them and they pass through by themselves while I look on. Then, I am honored with the opportunity to move on to the next house.