It's late, the hour, and the life of the man whose dying breaths fill the room. Those agonal respirations prompted one of the family to call 911, although they had been coached, and prepared for this moment for months. Their dad, husband, brother and grandpa lie dying in the living room of the house he built, and raised his family in.
Most were there now, the phone calls going out a few hours ago, that chain of communication families dealing with terminal illness know all too well.
So the gathering of loved ones parts as we arrive, making way for our bag full of meds, the defibrillator, the stair chair, prepared to do what we must.
"Does he have any final wishes?" I ask, hoping somebody understands and comes up with the DNR. My partner puts an oxygen mask over the man's face, a few people protest, most just watch.
"The Hospice people have the paperwork."
His respirations are slowing now, his eighty pound frame shaking, thankfully unconscious as the morphine pump grinds along.
I hear the sirens of the engine company in the distance, more strangers about to invade this intimate gathering-this final farewell. It's a moment that will stay with the survivors forever, and give them comfort in the difficult days ahead. Knowing their loved one died with dignity, in the home he built, surrounded by family.
"I need a Do Not Resuscitate order signed by him or a doctor," I say to the person who appears to be in charge. He nods, understanding my request and the position I am in.
Two respirations a minute now. The guy is fumbling for the paperwork as his dad is about to leave this earth forever. The engine company arrives on scene, chaos about to enter and ruin the hoped for serenity of a man's final moments with his family.
"It's okay," I tell the man, and step outside, closing the door behind me.