Spiritual Care Counselor Bette Birnbaum is often moved to poetry by her experiences with families in hospice. Here is one of her recent poems:


He promised not to peek,
and she trusted him—
the boy from the neighborhood
whom she’d married when they were twenty-one
and lived with in a bubble of happiness ever since.

She set out paper goods
floral plates and matching napkins,
a tray of pineapple rings,
potted orchids (supplied by friends),
and their well-used sand chairs.

While his eyes were still closed
she worked an oversized beach towel beneath him
and didn’t take no for an answer
when she went to change him into his brightest bathing suit,
now several sizes too big.

When she let him look at last,
he beheld his second honeymoon.

They donned Ray-Bans,
slathered on coconutty sunscreen,
and sipped mai tais.
They snapped selfies to the strains of ukulele music.

They didn’t want the time to end
even though they never left the family room,
and he never left the hospital bed
where he was living – and dying – on hospice.