1. Ufema, Joy RN, MS

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My grandfather, who has diabetes, is blind and terminally ill with renal failure. He decided to stop dialysis, and my family is caring for him in his home. He's not in any pain, and his physician thinks he'll live for about 2 weeks. He and my grandmother have had an unusually close marriage, but now she's feeling helpless. Yesterday she asked, "Isn't there something I can do for him?" What can I tell her?-J.F., FLA.


This unfortunate situation reminds me of a professor-patient I had the honor to know. He had an aggressive brain tumor that cruelly stole his sight before taking his life. I enjoyed making my famous blackberry tea for him when I visited. One day, as I was taking a fresh-brewed cup to his room, I overheard his wife's voice.

Figure. Photo credit... - Click to enlarge in new windowFigure. Photo credit by Kate Miller

"And then, Peter, you brought that little skiff around so nicely. Can you see the water, choppy and full of white caps?"


"Yes," he said. "I see it, and I'm recalling the dark sky."


"Oh, yes," she continued, "and can you see in your mind that wonderful pub in Ireland?"


Together they laughed, holding hands and holding memories. She continued describing travels to Brazil and Botswana. He shared her delight.


Several days later when I visited, he was in a coma, his wife by his side. She'd placed a brilliant orange maple leaf in his pale hand. In a soft voice, she described the leaf. "It came from the tree near the park, Peter. Remember? Where you proposed to me?"


Some say the sense of hearing remains until the spirit leaves. I'd like to think that Peter heard her question and remembered how he felt when she said yes.


With your grandmother's help, your grandfather may draw the same comfort from his own storehouse of happy memories.