I have been awake for about 32 hours now, so I'm not sure how much sense this post will make. I know that I have to try to put into words the emotions I felt this morning as I witnessed a life end in front of me. I have been a nurse for over 2 years now. I have been fortunate to not have to deal with patients dying often on my shift. I have however helped out other nurses who have patients pass away. It happens that this was not my patient and not even a lady I could have pointed out in a line up if required; but was familiar with the name and the fact that she is a Resident at our Long Term Care Facility. Her end of life story in my words ends as follows.
Her sister was there with her at her bedside, determined that she wouldn't die alone like so many in nursing homes do. Her husband, who is also a resident, was across the hall in his room worrying not for his own failing health; but that of his beloved wife of so many years. Her sister calmly asked throughout the night was her breathing normal, (no it wasn't.) She asked if she was on Hospice. (No she wasn't, yet.) She came out in the hall to tell the nurse "I think she's gone." I accompanied the nurse into the room with the Dynamap. No vital signs were registering. I put my stethoscope to her chest, and at the cold sensation, she took a breath and slowly breathed her last. I left my stethoscope over her heart listening to her heart as it began to slow until it beat no more. It is a feeling I am unable to properly put into words exactly how it felt to watch as another human being took her last breath and listened with my ears as her heart stopped beating. I am a firm believer of God and that life and death are both miracles in and of themselves. I have witnessed childbirth by others and delivered 3 of my own. It is nothing other than a miracle how something that starts in a moment of passion can come into this world kicking and screaming and be a work of art designed by no one less than God. I learned this morning that the end of life is just as miraculous when God calls one of his own home once their journey on Earth is complete. I have never been fascinated with the process of death and do not think it is something that I will ever completely become comfortable seeing. It is heartwrenching to be the one to call the family to come to the nursing home and not be able to tell them what is going on until they get there. It is even more painful to meet that family in the lobby as they rush in to see Mother one more time before she goes, to break the news that she is already gone. I have been blessed with being able to let families know in such a manner that they are comforted in their immense time of grief; if that is even plausible. I remember my mother being the one to call me and simply state, "He's gone." when my beloved Daddy passed away. She is a no-nonsense type person and that must be where I get my no BS mentality. However; there is just never a good way to tell someone that the people they have loved and known their entire lives are no longer here anymore. It is during the many times I have broken the news and comforted families that I realized--we need the dying more than they need us. These are the people that have been the rock for our foundations for so long we don't know where to turn. These are the people that have loved and comforted us in countless times of grief from the smallest of boo-boos to the largest of heart aches. Who will comfort us now in our time of need? Who will be the rock for us to lean on and lead us in the right direction in life? Who will love us now? The answer is simple; we just aren't ready to accept what God is telling us. It is our time to lead. Our loved ones have done their work as God intended them to do. He is ready for us to take on life on our on. Countless Seniors have passed on these words at times when we didn't want to accept what they have to say--God will never put more on us than we can bear. No one has ever died from the load on their shoulders being too heavy.
I have typed many words here tonight, yet I still am unable to say what it is that I felt at the moment I heard her last heartbeat. I do know that it is a feeling that changed me and how I perceive death. I was somehow comforted by none other than God. I finally learned tonight a phrase I have used myself countless times, but until today didn't fully understand....Let go and let God.