Mar. 22, 2017

Near Death...

I had a patient once. Her name was Laura and when Death knocked on Laura’s door, she answered hesitantly. I was in her room doing wound care on her when I heard her say, “No. I’m not ready yet.”

“Who are you talking to?” I asked somewhat bemused. Since she didn’t answer me, I just went on about my business.

A day or two later, Laura fell into what we nurses describe as the death toll. She lapsed into a pre-death coma, her eyes glazed over, and she slowly began to emit a death rattle (a noisy sound of breathing that usually signals impending death).

Two of her five daughters, who had not spoken to each other in more than 20 years, came to terms with each other in the days that followed. As her family gathered around with me standing in the midst of them offering reassuring words, we heard Laura say, “Okay. I’m ready now.”

An hour or so later, her CNA, April, came to me in tears. “I was changing her when I heard her gasp. When I looked at her face, I saw a white wisp rising up from her. We all saw it; me and the whole family.”

Laura had passed away with elegance and grace. I’m convinced Laura was talking to the angels and she was waiting for her daughters to reconcile before crossing over.

In the course of my career, I’ve witnessed the strangest things. I’ve had two different patients call me (and others) to their room to say good-bye. “I won’t be here when you come to work tomorrow so, I just want to say thank you for taking care of me while I’ve been here.” They were, indeed, passed on by the time our shift began the following day.

I had a patient once tell me she would live to be 100. She refused to answer Death’s knock until she turned exactly 100 years old. I arrived at work for the 11-7 shift on the night of her 100th birthday. I came in to find an extremely frustrated nurse. “Mrs. Ravenell is driving the whole shift crazy tonight so, best be prepared,” the off-going nurse reported. “She’s screaming there’s ghosts in her room and they’ve come to take her. Every time we leave her side she starts screaming. We can’t get anything done!”

“I got this,” I reassured.

After giving report to my CNA’s I went into the room and sat with her. I stayed all night with her leaving only briefly when a CNA came to relieve me so I could do my own work. The following night, the same routine until around 2:00 a.m. when she finally passed away.

This woman was terrified of something. A woman bedridden for the last decade of her life was suddenly trying to crawl out of the bed and go with us whenever she thought we were leaving her. She would scream in a high-pitched screech, “Please! Don’t leave me, they’re evil and they want to take me with them!”

“What do they look like,” I inquired of her one time. “Are they your family who’s passed on?”

“No, I don’t know who they are,” she sobbed. “They’re all black figures, no faces, just cold, eerie, dark shadows.”

I wasn’t always sure about how I felt about it until the death of comedian Sam Kinison. He was raised by a preacher man, even donning the cloth and answering to the call of God himself. His story has always touched my heart because I had experienced a little of his own “death story.”

Sam Kinison quit preaching to become a comedian and he was very good at it. He was hysterically funny. Most of our self-righteous Bible thumpers would say Sam was a heathen now, condemned to hell. But, as I’ve read in the Bible, only Christ has the authority to condemn someone to hell and I don’t think He did.

Due to a fatal car accident, Sam Kinison died at the age of 38. So young. His work here was finished. It’s been reported that as he lay waiting for the paramedics to arrive he spoke out and said, “No, I’m not ready yet. Not yet.” Several minutes later, Sam’s last words were, “Okay, Okay. I’m ready now.”

I believe we will all be greeted at the end of our time whether it be is the Angels of Glory or the Angels of Death. Having already experienced angels during my own time of need, I know they exist and I know they’ll be waiting to see me again when my time comes. I will be happy to see Laura again and finally meet Sam Kinison when the days of Resurrection arrive.

I don't know what to say about Mrs. Ravenell. I hate to judge but I do not think she'll be sitting on cloud nine. I don't know what sins she's committed in her 100-year life, but I shudder to think she'd never stopped to ask for forgiveness and make her peace with God.