There Was No Hospice Back Then

Posted by Steve Crews

There Was No Hospice Back Then
A family shot of (from left) my older sister Nan, my mother Gertrude holding my just-christened younger sister Jane, me at 7 1/2 and my father Halbert Crews. My mother died two years later of cancer.

I am nine years old, standing wide-eyed, frozen in the darkened hallway by the closed door to my parent’s bedroom. My mother is inside, gasping the words to the 23rd Psalm. Something is terribly wrong. Terribly wrong. I don’t know what it is, and I don’t ask. She’s been sick for more than a year, spending more time in bed as the months pass and recently, oxygen tanks were hauled up to her bedside.

Had I listened to the whispering of her friends, I would have heard the reason ― cancer. That’s how the word was said in 1950, in a whisper and with a slow, hopeless shake of the head. Poor Gertrude.

My mother’s death was not a good one. Long weeks of groaning pain...cries...tears. I was told much later that the doctors explained why they had to limit her dosage of morphine: Addiction. Too much, too regularly and this dying woman might become addicted.

I hardly know what to say.

There was no hospice back then, but there is now. And there are doctors and other professionals available to deal with the physical and emotional needs of the terminally ill and their loved ones. Those of us who have been around for a while ― those with memories of a different time ― are especially grateful.


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