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


Even now, when he is as slow of speech as Moses,
words matter to him.

Luminous,
placed with precision in the flow of conversation
and the cascade of prayer,
they are as honeyed as King David’s
and as wise as Solomon’s
each phrase a string of pearls in the ether.

Which is why,
when our pastor/patient prayed over our last visit,
over our time of holding his life to the light,
he startled from his close-eyed trance
when he heard his silver tongue speak:
“Dear Love.”

The words hung in the air.
He had meant to say, “Dear Lord.”
He unclasped my hands
raised a quizzical eyebrow,
and digested this most novel introduction to his prayer.

In the moments before he re-centered himself and took up my hands once more,
I wondered if he knew he accidentally shared the secret
that hospice, when it is humming,
is a divine embrace.