I was checking in on a patient of mine who was very near end of life. By the end of my visit, he was comfortable and sleeping so I began to gather my things to leave. As I rose from my chair, he called out and said, “I’m going to die, and I’m frightened!” Here, this incredible WWII and Pearl Harbor survivor who had braved hardships we could never begin to fathom, needed the support I could actually give him in his last hours of life. I immediately put down my things, went to his side, and held his hand. Something compelled me to begin to hum, not knowing if he would appreciate it or not. As I hummed, his face relaxed and he started to motion with his hand to increase, seemingly ushering him to a place of peace. Scrambling to find another song under pressure I immediately thought of the epilogue to Les Miserables and put it on my phone. As I sang I held back tears as I got to lyrics such as “lay down your burden.” Those who know me well, know I don’t particularly love to sing in public, but in this case it seemed to be what brought him comfort, so I put my shyness aside and continued. In that moment, I felt my purpose on this earth.
It struck me in that interaction, once again, how incredibly privileged we are to work in hospice and the humanity in being able to comfort people in their last moments of life. Hospice is more than a job, it is who we are. As a Nurse, a fellow Veteran, and a human being I feel so incredibly humbled and in awe of the power of this moment. The power of moments like these we all can share, that many who do not work in this environment can understand or even do.
I want to give a special thanks to my team for always being an amazing support system, and for the remarkable compassion you show to our patients and their families. I am honored to work with each and every one of you. Please take a minute in your busy day and remember how fortunate we are to do what we do. This is OUR gift and our purpose.
Emma B., RN
Heart ‘n Home Hospice & Palliatve Care
Bend Case Manager