Already late to an evening meeting, I rushed through the hospital halls. Up ahead, an older couple ambled. He was older than she, but there clearly had a strong bond.

She caught my eye and asked, “Do you know how to get to the elevators?”

Opting for expediency, I let her know that I was heading that way. “I’ll take you there.”

Relieved, the woman confided their story: a routine visit for her husband discovered a brain tumor. He was suddenly scheduled for a biopsy in the next morning. She wanted, insisted that he complete an advance directive before the surgery. Neither knew how to begin that conversation or what to discuss.

I stopped.

I’ve experienced this moment in a hospital too many times – the confusion, the fear, the need. It can be so hard in normal circumstances, let alone crisis ones, to start discussions about health care near the end of life.

I wanted this couple to complete the planning, so they could focus on the time together as opposed to possible outcomes.

For about 20 minutes I sat with the couple. We talked about past experiences and what a “best day” looked like. We explored a values and beliefs. In the end, the husband verbalized choices that the wife did not know.

These moments’ drive my work at Honoring Choices Pacific Northwest. People feel relief after talking about their future health care decisions, knowing they will get the care they want.

Unfortunately, this family is not unique. But people should shouldn’t have to rely on a chance elevator ride.

~Bonnie Bizzell