The Joy and Sorrow of Hospice Nursing

by Donna Casey

Maria’s end of life story

Maria was 87 years old and had five children. Her eldest daughter was her main caregiver but her whole family was very emotionally close. Maria suffered a fall and hit her head, resulting in severe bleeding in her brain. She was rushed to the hospital and the doctors did not expect her to survive long enough to return home.

With Covid, her family could not be with her in the hospital. It was important to Maria that she die at home surrounded by her family. Hospice was called in to make it happen. Maria’s faith was very strong. She was very involved in her local Roman Catholic parish, and her children and grandchildren mirrored her faith and love of Jesus.

Maria’s family prayed that she would make it home safely to be surrounded by her family. Maria was released from the hospital the following day and awoke the day after that. I had the honor of meeting her and her extended family, who gathered at her home. They played soft music or the religious channel on television. Maria continually held her Rosary. She spoke with all her children and grandchildren. She ate with them, she prayed with them.

She lived for 10 days after arriving back home. During that time many close friends came to spend time with Maria and her family. It was such a miracle that she was mentally alert during her remaining days. Three days before her death, Maria went back to sleep and did not wake up again. The time she spent with her family was peaceful and sacred. Her transition from this life to everlasting life was one of the most beautiful events I have had the honor of witnessing.

I am not asserting that those who know Jesus never suffer at the end of life. Jesus himself suffered more than we can ever imagine at the end of his life.

Dee’s end of life story

Dee was 79 years old and was on hospice for dementia and heart failure. Dee suffered many falls, and on her last fall, she hit her head very hard. Dee’s mental and physical conndition was never the same. She became bedridden, was agitated, often tried to climb out of bed, and picked at things both seen and unseen. No longer able to live on ger own, Dee was moved in with her daughter. Dee’s daughter played soft music, provided soft lighting in her room, and did everything she could to make Dee’s transition peaceful. Dee lived for over 14 days in this agitated, restless state. Dee did not know Jesus. 

Faith and Hope

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1)

I am not asserting that those who know Jesus never suffer at the end of life. Jesus himself suffered more than we can ever imagine at the end of his life. Working in hospice gives me an incredible opportunity to support people and their families during a most difficult, but often sacred, time. The biggest difference I see in people who know and love Jesus is HOPE.

These families have hope that their loved one will be relieved of pain and suffering. Hope that their loved one will have everlasting life with Jesus. Hope that they will join their loved one someday. They have hope because for them death is not the end.

My patients who know Jesus do not fear death. They are ready to go and welcome  death. Just prior to death, most of these patients see close family members and friends who have died. Some are able to tell me who they have seen and what they have said. This testimony brings incredible peace to the patient and their family – and to me. 

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