Friday, January 31, 2014

What science can not explain

I am a hospice nurse, and as a nurse, I am a scientist. I engage in evidence-based practice. I can tell you the pathophysiology surrounding an illness. I know (or know where to look up) how medications work and why.

But there are things I can not base on science. I can't tell you why dying people start "seeing" people that have died before them. I can't tell you why how I can tell when a soul has left a body, even though they may still "technically" be alive.  I can't tell you how people, at the end of their lives, often seem to live with one foot on Earth and one foot...elsewhere.

I recently cared for a woman who was riddled with cancer. Her dying process was so challenging, there were symptoms that were so hard to manage. Her family was young, and they were her caregivers. I spent a lot of time with this family. As her disease progressed her symptoms became exceedingly difficult. Her family, full of love for her, was ready to say goodbye.

Say goodbye they did. As her organs started to shut down her children gathered around her bedside. Her daughter asked her husband to take a photo of them gathered around her mom, whose vital signs had just ceased. The photo that they took was not altered in any way. Her daughter sent it to me from her cell phone. She gave me permission to post this, and I will tell you that it took my breath away.



There is no man made light directly above this woman's body. I have been in this room many times and there is an overhead light but it is way past the foot of her bed. This beam of light is unexplainable. And yet I think that many of us know exactly what this is.

This woman's children believe this is her gift to them. I believe they are right. This mother left behind young adults at a time when they likely appreciated her more than ever. The loss of a mom is a grievous milestone. This picture is a gift, not only to 4 children mourning their mother, but for anyone who ever questions what happens when we die.

Dying is powerful. Poignant. Unavoidable. I will never pretend to know that happens when we die. I only watch these powerful, mysterious events with curiosity. This picture challenges my science based mind. And it brings me a quiet sense of comfort.


3 comments:

Sheila said...

This is so wonderful! First of all, bless you in the work that you do...it is very needed. Secondly, all of us need to know that death is not the end, and the time of transition can be a healing one for all of us of we allow it.

Again, thank you and the family so much for sharing this with all of us.

Karie Ouellette said...

Wow. I have wanted to comment for days. I read this post days before my mother passed away from Scleroderma. It gave me a sense of preparation for those last moments, that last look of "seeing the light". I'm a little shocked at how vividly your posts paradox my life but at the same time I am now 100% certain I was lead to your blog for a reason. Paragraphs 3 and 4 of your post are similar to my life, TO THE T. We did not take a picture, that's not what I mean...just the whole thing, young caretakers, difficult symptoms, etc.

Thank you, for once again, unknowingly having such an impact on a strangers life.

Karie Ouellette

Karie Ouellette said...
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