Close to death, she was smiling at someone her nurse could not see.
This story took place many years ago, when hospice care had just begun in our community. We had hired a newly licensed RN, fresh out of school with little to no experience in bedside nursing.
She was a beautiful, lively nurse who dressed in bright colors and wore sassy, high-heeled shoes every day. She was a very outgoing, smiling person and our terminally ill and dying patients loved her. They always appreciated when nurses came beautifully dressed. “I know I am still alive when you come into the room,” they would say.
Sharon was assigned as the admissions nurse when she first came to hospice care. It was her responsibility to meet with the new patients and their families, and to set up a plan of care for the time they would be with us.
On her very first admission, she found herself sitting in a lounge chair on the back lawn at the patient’s beach house. She could see the lovely ocean waves, and it was in that spot where the patient felt most relaxed and peaceful.
During the question-and-answer time, Sharon was facing the patient and the patient was facing the ocean. It started off very naturally, with the patient expressing her needs and concerns to Sharon.
After a short while, the patient, looking past Sharon toward the ocean, began to smile and wave. When Sharon asked whom she was waving to, the patient laughed and said, “Oh, they are some friends who have died ahead of me. They are waving for me to come with them.”
She was totally unafraid of what she was seeing, and seemed very happy they were there. Since this was Sharon’s first experience with such things, she could hardly wait to get back to the hospice office to tell us all about it. “Do you really think she was waving to friends who had died?” she asked. “She was smiling at someone I did not see.”
Those of us who had been doing this special kind of hospice nursing for a while assured her that it had been real. This lovely, peaceful and contented patient joined her friends just a few days later in her eternal home. Sharon became a true believer very quickly.