I had been visiting Rev. Smith and his wife for the previous month as his Hospice nurse. Rev. Smith was not afraid to die and he listened intently as I explained how we would support him and his wife through this transition. The doctor told me that Rev. Smith was dying due to the damage to his heart and lungs from chemo and radiation to treat his cancer in the l970’s.
I enjoyed our visits at their darling home. Rev. Smith had us position his hospital bed under the large ‘picture’ window in the living room. He said he liked looking outside and seeing his church on the left and an ancient oak tree on the right. Mrs. Smith didn’t want to hear much about Hospice or death or dying or how we were going to assist her in caring for her husband. She explained she was very frightened about all of it. So she would retreat to the kitchen as soon as I arrived. She said she felt she had all the information she needed from the first visit’s conversation. She gained comfort in her kitchen.
Rev. Smith’s breathing pattern changed one day and his color was changing as well. Mrs. Smith called and asked that I come ASAP!! I advised her to try to remember all we had shared with her and to call her neighbor to come sit with them until I arrived if that would help her feel better. She did.
When I opened the front door the neighbor ran out and Mrs. Smith ran to the kitchen. Rev. Smith was sitting in his recliner and looked up at me with his very blue face and lips and sweetly asked, “Becki, can you get me in my bed.”
I did. I picked this sweet soul up and carried him to his bed, positioned him sitting up straight as this made him feel like he could breathe better. I sat behind him with my hands on his shoulders holding him up. He gently patted my fingers on his left shoulder and said, “Becki, do you see them?”
“No Sir. Please, tell me what you are seeing.” I replied with my heart in my throat.
“Sweetheart, the room is now full of angels. Look up there on both sides of the ceiling. They are on both sides.” He whispered as he pointed to the ceiling gazing in awe.
“Becki, I have to go now. Annie! Annie! I love you. I will see you again. My Lord and my God.” He said as he raised his right arm as high as he could.
Then he gently fell back against me with his last breath. Annie came out of the kitchen and came near. She wasn’t afraid anymore. She kissed him and patted him, quietly weeping. I just sat there holding him for a while.
This precious dear man wasn’t on any kind of pain medication. And there is no way any one could convince me that what he saw wasn’t real.
What an honor it was to be present for his transition. I will carry this memory with me for all time. He reaffirmed my belief that there is no death. And that there are angels. And that we need not fear death.
More than once someone has asked me, “Why do you choose to be with the dying? Why don’t you find a career that is more about joy?”
I tell them, “You have no idea what joy I’ve been rewarded with in being present to these patients and their loved ones. I am so very blessed to stand on such holy ground.”
Am I anxious to die? No, not really. I’m grateful to be here on this journey and I am continually learning and experiencing Life! But when my time does come I hope to see Rev. Smith and thank him personally for all he gave me the day of our last visit.