Friday, April 20, 2012

Directional Synchronicity: The Right Time

The more hospice experiences I have, the more sure I am that there is a significance and a plan to the timing of a patient's death.  I have written about timing before here.  Today I was on my way to sit bedside with a patient who was actively dying.  I will call him "Ed."  I was supposed to start at 8 am but I felt directed to get there a few minutes early.  Sure enough, when I walked back to the room, the whole family was there and they told me that he had just passed.

Ed's daughter, whom I will call "Melissa" apologized that I hadn't been notified in time so that I did not have to come.  I expressed my condolences and asked if she was there when he died.  She said, "Yes, and it was the strangest thing."  She pulled me out into the hallway and asked me if I had remembered the conversation we had two days prior.

Two days ago, she had asked me, "Is it true that when their feet turn blue, that is the sign that the time is near?  That is what the nurse said."  I smiled.  I know that at this time, when a loved one is dying, the words I say will be remembered.  I need to be extra thoughtful in my communication.  I also do not want to ever contradict another staff member.

I said, "Yes, it is true.  However..." and then I began to explain to her the spiritual side of things.  That the more that I have worked in hospice, the more I know that the timing is much more mysterious.  Sometimes the feet don't change.  Sometimes they do and the person doesn't die.  What I told her is that there is a plan, and it's something that we don't get to know until later.  I told her, "If you are meant to be there, you will be... but sometimes, no matter how much you love them, they would rather spare you of the moment."  I told her that it can be nearly impossible to predict which way the patient will want it, but after the fact, it will always seem clear that how it happened was the way it was supposed to happen.

Her eyes got big and she told me that her father in law had passed just minutes after they had left the room.  Her own experience confirmed for her what I was saying.  She thanked me for the conversation and went to work.

Fast forward to today.  This is what Melissa told me in the hallway.  Melissa had been thinking about what I had told her.  She decided to have a conversation with her dad, "Ed."  She told him lovingly, "Dad, you and I both know that I am the only one in the family who can handle being here when you go.  Everyone has said their goodbyes... I will look after them.  You need to go while it's on my shift."

Within just a couple of minutes, his breathing changed.  The nurse acknowledged that it would be soon.  Melissa called her family.  Knowing that they were on their way, he knew it was time.  Ed died within five minutes of his daughter telling him it was time to go.  She said he took three breaths and it was a peaceful transition.

So then after Melissa had told me the story, we both found significance in the fact that I had not been notified.   It was important to her to tell me the story, and it was helpful for me to hear it.


endpointithaca said...

hi -

my father passed this March; Cancer.

From diagnosis to his moving on was a total of five weeks, and the shock is immense. he was cremated on 4/02, and now on 4/20 i read your blog and write this comment.

i was in portland, oregon when my mother called to tell me his condition had worsened on 3/19.

The cancer had spread from his lungs to his stomach, his blood. we couldn't believe it, we didn't want to. just three days before we had spoke on the telephone and he wished me well for my flight to the west coast.

suddenly it was a mad rush to get home. An 11 hour cab journey from portland to san francisco as we couldn't get a connector flight, every seat was booked. hectic, but we made it to SFO and left the US two days after arriving.

my girlfriend and i arrived at the hospital in spain on 3/24, and I was allowed precious time with my dad, who lay in a coma. we spoke, i knew he could hear me and i told him not to be afraid, that he had been preparing for this moment his whole life.

later that night we got a call to the house, i picked up and it was the duty nurse. she simply said "his heart has stopped at 21:55".

we hung up, i told my mother and we hugged in the kitchen.

so, thank you for sharing this story, it helps.


Lizzy Miles said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lizzy Miles said...

James, my condolences for the recent loss of your father and thank you for sharing your story. I'm glad my note on timing brought you comfort. You went to great effort to make it to see your father before he died, and I was relieved to hear that you made it in time. For those who don't make it, the guilt is unbelievable, no matter how much they are told that it wasn't meant to be. Keep your memories alive by sharing the story of your father and the imprint he has left on your life. I am the sum of all I have known.

Your post will be treasured by me because it reinforces for me that blogging my experiences is worthwhile, even if the audience is small. Quantity, not quality.

Have a blessed day!

Trish and Rob MacGregor said...

Beautiful story, Lizzy. Synchronicities do seem to be common during times of great transition. And what transition is greater than death?