Six Months to Live--and Laugh

On the day a woman learns she has only a short time to live, she meets someone who shows her the humorous side.

Editor's Note: Dorothy G. Hensley, age 89, is in the final months of her battle with congestive heart disease. We received this submission from the Dream Foundation, whose mission it is to grant terminally ill adults one final wish. Dorothy's dream is to be a published writer. We are happy to acknowledge her talent and publish her wonderful story. (Read more about Dorothy below.)

This is the day I learned that my life is coming to an end, and that's all right. Eighty-eight years is more than most people get.

My daughter and I sat in Dr. Barbara's office. "I have done everything I can for you," she said, kindness in her voice. "Would you like me to contact hospice?" Surprised, I didn't know how to react. The doctor was looking into my eyes, waiting for a sign of understanding. "They can take care of your needs, enabling you to stay home." She paused, and then said, "Do you know about hospice?"


I said, "Yes. I had hospice when Mia's dad died." I was remembering the flurry of activity, almost eight years ago, when a registered nurse and two aides arrived at our home, along with a delivery of a hospital bed, bedside potty, a wheelchair, and a walker. In no time at all the bed was standing and made up in the living room, the potty was hidden behind a screen, the wheelchair was out of the line of traffic, and the walker was folded and leaned against a wall. Yes, I was acquainted with hospice.

Mia spoke, "Are you telling me my mother has six months to live?"

The doctor transferred her attention to Mia. "No. We don't say that now." She looked back at me, "You may live months or a year..." I sensed hesitation in her demeanor. I stood, ready to leave; I needed to go home and talk this over with God.

However, before I could go home, I had to keep an appointment made last week with a beautician, a stranger, since retirement had claimed the operator I was in the habit of using. Maybe the hair-do would give me a lift. Yet I felt a strong need to talk about what I thought of as my new status. Until I was better acquainted with it myself, I didn't want to discuss the obvious change in our relationship with Mia; she needed time, too.

Back in the car an unfamiliar silence lay between us. By the time Mia stopped the car to let me out at the beauty shop, I knew what I was going to do. Suddenly I was glad I didn't know the hairdresser.

Her name was Melody. After introductions, I was seated in an adjustable chair, leaned back against a sink, and felt water and shampoo fingered onto my scalp. Then, before I could change my mind, I said, "I've just been told that I'm going to die." Her fingers stilled immediately. She said nothing for a moment, so I added, "I'll have to call in hospice." Then I sat quietly, waiting. When her fingers started working again, I felt the muscles in my neck become tense. What was she going to say?

You can have three months or five or nine, but you can't have six."
Read more on page 2 >>

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Dorothy G. Hensley
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