Midwife to the Dying [On loss]

I lost a patient this morning who I shared a very beautiful connection with. This was a tough loss for me.

I received the call yesterday, my patient was actively dying.

In order to receive Hospice care, a physician must determine the patient has 6 months or less to live.

This particular patient was in the final stages of his disease, and vitals among other tell tale signs indicated imminent death.

My person suffered from a very debilitating illness that affected his cognitive function.

As we sat together over lunch about 3 weeks ago, his head down, he suddenly looked up at me and said

“I’m ready to go home”.

He asked me if I would pray with him, and I did. I told him it was ok to let go if he was ready… “Are you ready, I asked”? “I believe so” he responded.

I sat there holding his hand in silence for a few moments as he drifted back into his former state of disorientation.

An old WW2 Navy veteran, I spent many a day with him nestled up to me as I read old war stories to him, he loved history in general, and responded favorably to these old stories of victory, triumph, and yes…. even defeat.

Like a helpless child seeking comfort, i’d stroke his forehead as i read aloud, reminding him regularly that it was safe to let go, that i was there and there was nothing to be afraid of.

Many times he drifted off in my arms, like a small boy, safe with mother.

I woke Saturday morning with a sense of panic, restlessness and anxiety.

These are not typical emotions for me. I sat with these feelings as they intensified over the course of 3 days.

Then Tuesday, I received the call. My patient was actively dying. I was able to say my goodbyes, and offer one last, tender stroke upon his forehead, one final word of comfort in his ear.

I woke this morning to the news…He had passed.

This is such deep work, and I realize it is not for everyone. It is the greatest honor to be a part of the dying process, helping a soul cross over into the unknown. I feel what they feel; fear, panic, terror, peace, anticipation, sorrow, regret. I feel it all. And that is the impetus that creates the drive needed to keep going in the midst of such intensity.

And while I feel a level of sadness for the families of my people, I know that my peaople continue on free of all these earthly constaints, and that I celebrate.

I have now been assigned to the wife he has left behind as she draws closer to her own transition.

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