from my hospice journal….
A hospice patient died this afternoon.
I had been to visit Sharon every other day for the past 2-1/2 weeks. When I arrived this morning, her husband said hadn’t talked since I was there last. She died shortly after I left her this morning.
When Sharon was admitted she said she’d like to speak with me about her dreams but we never got to them. The cancer was slowing her thoughts and her speech. She could only speak a few words at a time as if each word took the greatest of effort to find and to speak. So we spoke little. I held her hand, massaged her arms and legs and made her laugh.
Her husband, Steve, an atheist, a very practical and logical man, struggled with the dramatic changes, how quickly she was diminishing…and that he couldn’t fix it. He was very upset because Sharon was seeing dead people…a close relative had committed suicide years ago…a friend who had died. He was agitated telling me about it, that he told Sharon that she’s hallucinating, that she’s seeing things. And I knew I wasn’t there to hear Sharon’s dreams; I was there to help Steve find the blessing and comfort in how she was dying. I assured him that this was okay, not only a part of dying but a welcome part of dying. Maybe it was, as he thought, metastasis to the brain, but that we want to stay open that indeed Sharon was in two worlds now and the other world was starting to make itself known.
So as he listened, I asked Sharon about her unseen visitors and her face lit up, “I was so happy to see them!” She would lay quietly and then smile. I said, ”you’re feeling them now aren’t you, I can see by your face” and she would smile and nod. Later that day, at the hospice team meeting, Steve shared what was happening and said this amazing thing, “How do I know? Maybe Sharon is seeing her relatives. I’m just going along with and supporting whatever she says.” I could tell he felt good about this, that he somehow had a sense of how he could be with her, even honor the unseen visitors in the room.
I walked in to Sharon’s room a couple of days ago and before I could even sit down, Steve said to her, “Tell Mary Jo who you saw!” She said to me, “Nobody believes me.” I said, “Well, you know I believe you and Steve believes you.” She lay quietly for a moment; talking exhausted her. Then Sharon, a great cat lover, said, “There were cats all over the room.” Both Steve and I marveled at how wonderful that was for her as she pointed to all the spots around the room where she had seen them.
Today as Sharon slept deeply and peacefully, her husband spoke of his love for her and how he imagined that even in that moment Sharon was already in another place that was beautiful and comforting.
(image by josephine jackson)
Mary Jo Heyen is a certified Natural Dreamwork Practitioner working with clients in person, phone or Skype. Learn more about her work with dreams at www.maryjoheyen.com.