I’ve seen my share of death as a hospice nurse. The thing that I’ve learned is that our soul is a very real thing…not destined for this world at all, but made and created for eternity.
Many rookie nurses have come into my office with tears shining in their eyes. I look up, already knowing what is on their mind, but ask, “Is there something wrong?”
For a while, they’re quiet. Some of the nurses bite their bottom lip, trying hard not to let their true emotions show. Others, well, they loose the battle and let one tear after another slip down their cheeks.
“How am I supposed to do this everyday?” One of these rookies finally whispers. “I don’t know if I can do it.”
“Was it a good death or bad death?” I ask.
She looks up, startled, and frowns. “Is there such a thing?”
“A bad death…” I begin, slowly, “Is the kind of death that leaves you trembling. You don’t know what it is, but things seem so…cold and dark. There was this time when I was bending over a comatose patient of mine to record vitals. I knew the time was drawing near, but I never expected what happened. Her eyes flew open and she drew in this deep, shaky breath. I looked at her, but knew she was looked right through me. This wretched smell filled the room and she began to scream that her feet were on fire. I tried so hard to comfort her, to figure out how to help ease her pain, but all at once, she let out a shriek and the breath went out of her.”
The rookie’s eyes were wide and I noticed that her lips had gone pale with fear. I let the words sink in for a second before I went on…
“Now a good death....I’ve seen much more of those than the bad. There was once this old man dying of cancer. His family was so close. They surrounded his bed when I told them the time was drawing near. There were tears shed, but more than anything, there seemed to be this strange sensation of peace. His breath grew more and more labored, but he managed to reach out and cup his wife’s cheek as he whispered how much he loved her. Then, this huge smile lit up his face and he told his family that Jesus was waiting…that he had to go. And then…he died.”
I stopped talking and studied the rookie’s face. The young woman was half my age, fresh out of nursing school—didn’t have the slightest idea of what was truly at stake in life and death. I watched her eyes as she stared at her hands. Then, she looked up at me and asked in a near whisper, “What was the difference between the patients?”
I searched my heart before answering, knowing full well the measure of my words. “The first patient lost her soul to death. She didn’t believe--she wasn’t ready. Seconds after she died, I knew I’d watched her slip off into eternity…and where she went, I hope I never have to see many more go.”
The young woman’s eyes never leave my own as she asks, “And the second?”
“Well, there is no doubt in my mind that he walked away with Jesus the day he died. There was such a sweet spirit that filled the room. Even the family members, in the middle of their grief, could not deny the joy that they felt to know their loved one had just went off to live in Heaven.”
I stop talking and let the words sink in. After several long moments, the rookie nods her head, smiles, and stands. “Thank you for telling me this.” She starts to walk away, but hesitates just beyond the doorway. I watch as she turns, tears shining in her eyes, and asks, “How do you know where you will go when you die?”
And at that moment, I remember why I decided to become a Hospice Nurse. I may not be able to protect the souls of my patients, but I can help prepare the souls of my nurses. All they need to know…is the story of Calvary.
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