1. to relieve or lessen without curing; mitigate; alleviate.
2. to try to mitigate or conceal the gravity of (an offense) by excuses, apologies, etc.; extenuate.

The days on the east wing of Matthew Richardson could be long. The nights were even longer. And it took the right type of person to work there. Turn over was high. Most people lasted for about three months.

Cecily Richardson watched them all come and go–her coworkers and her clients. And strangely enough the clients often seemed to outlast her fellow employees. She didn’t blame them. No part of hospice could ever be defined as easy. Even she had to mentally prepare before going to work.

She had to calm her natural optimism that was often bruised and battered on a daily basis. Even after five years of working there, hope continued to rise within her at the start of every workday.

Maybe Mr. Petersen in 308 would be slightly lucid today…

Maybe Mrs. Everly would have less pain…

With her hopes thwarted, her lunch break was often her time of quiet reflection. The tears would silently roll and she would inhale deeply, wanting some miraculous turnaround for each client. Most marveled at someone so young deciding to work in the field longterm. But Cecily saw it as her calling with very little to marvel about.

The hardest moments came among those unready to let go, those haunted by past mistakes– things left undone, things they wished could be redone… She wasn’t immune to the look of fear in her clients’ gaze or their desperation for answers and peace.

“I haven’t done everything right,” Mr. Durban had said to her last week, grimacing through the pain as she increased his medication to palliate the distress on his body. “I was a wretched father, horrible to my wife. I appreciated my colleagues more than my family…”

He had searched her eyes for absolution and answers.

“We all make mistakes, Mr. Durban,” she had said softly.

“Do you think there’s any hope for me… any forgiveness for a man like me?”

He had struggled to speak as his breathing slowed, the medication easing him away from consciousness.

“Of course, Mr. Durban, I know someone who can take the worst offense and dissolve it; would you like to know him?”

He had shaken his head.

Cecily had nodded, adjusting the covers over Mr. Durban’s rising chest.

“I understand,” she had said with a gentle smile, “just remember hope is always at hand.”

Today Annette had rushed into the Mrs. Ofal’s room nearly out of breath. “I’ve been looking everywhere for you,” she hissed, not wanting to disturb Mrs. Ofal. “Mr. Durban wants to talk to you!”

Cecily practically ran to Mr. Durban’s room. By the time she got there, he was gone.  His adult son, with grey hair of his own, was in the corner weeping like a little boy. She backed out of the room out of respect.

These moments were hard and frequent, they left her wondering if she was making a difference in people’s last moments of life on earth. Doubt mingled with her hope as she looked on from the hallway, searching the Mr. Durban’s face. She hoped he was finally at peace.



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