A grieving widower penned a gut-wrenching open letter to the intensive-care unit staff who cared for his dying wife.
Laura Levis, a writer and editor for Harvard Magazine and the Harvard Gazette, died September 22 at age 34 after suffering a severe asthma attack. Levis spent her final days at CHA Cambridge Hospital in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with Peter DeMarco, her husband of two years.
“As I begin to tell my friends and family about the seven days you treated my wife … they stop me at about the 15th name that I recall,” began DeMarco in his tribute, which was published on Thursday, October 6, in the New York Times. “’How do you remember any of their names?’ They ask. ‘How could I not?’ I respond.”
DeMarco, a columnist at The Boston Globe, praised the doctors, nurses, respiratory specialists, social workers and cleaning staff members for their kindness. “When she needed shots, you apologized that it was going to hurt a little, whether or not she could hear,” he wrote. “When you listened to her heart and lungs through your stethoscopes, and her gown began to slip, you pulled it up to respectfully cover her.”
And they treated Levis’ devastated mom and dad just as tenderly. “You cared so greatly for her parents, helping them climb into the room’s awkward recliner, fetching them fresh water almost by the hour, and by answering every one of their medical questions with incredible patience,” DeMarco noted. “My father-in-law, a doctor himself as you learned, felt he was involved in her care. I can’t tell you how important that was to him.”
In the dedication, DeMarco recalled how the the staff hugged and consoled him when they found him sobbing. “How many times did you … ask about Laura’s life and the person she was, taking the time to look at her photos or read the things I’d written about her?” he asked. “How many times did you deliver bad news with compassionate words, and sadness in your eyes?”
He continued: “When I smuggled in a very special visitor, our tuxedo cat, Cola, for one final lick of Laura’s face, you ‘didn’t see a thing.’”
But the one hour DeMarco will never forget: His final moments with his wife, when nurses Donna and Jen made it possible for them to nap together.
“They asked me to leave the room for a moment, and when I returned, they had shifted Laura to the right side of her bed, leaving just enough room for me to crawl in with her one last time. I asked if they could give us one hour without a single interruption, and they nodded, closing the curtains and the doors, and shutting off the lights,” DeMarco wrote. “It was our last tender moment as a husband and a wife, and it was more natural and pure and comforting than anything I’ve ever felt. And then I fell asleep.”
DeMarco signed the letter “with eternal gratitude and love.”
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