The call came in just after 9 in the morning. A possible DOA.
As we pulled up to the house there was no one to greet us, no one outside in a panic, no one screaming in panic.
Inside, the body of a nearly 90 year old man lay in a hospital bed. He had died sometime during the night. His wife and daughters were solemn but not openly crying. His death had been expected. This was why he had come home.
As I went through the motions of checking for signs of life the family explained that he had had severe respiratory problems. He had been on hospice care and had recently come home from the hospital. Rigor had set in, there was nothing we could do for him.
After verifying that he had died we switched gears and turned to the family. We asked if there was anything that we could do for them. If there was someone we could call. The oldest daughter explained that they had already contacted hospice. His wife explained that they were one week shy of their 69th anniversary.
The widow did have one request. They had tried to get her husbands wedding band off of his finger but were unable to do it. I bent over the body, reaching for the far hand. I found the ring, and with some struggle, removed it for her. This started the tears.
As we were leaving I couldn't help but notice the wall in the front room. It was covered with photographs of different sizes documenting almost 70 years of marriage.
At least he had come home to die on his own terms, surrounded by those he loved. A little more dignity in death than dying at the hospital.