Do Miracles Prove God Exists? A True Hospice Journey.


I wanted to share a story from my personal experience as a hospice nurse that occurred over the last few weeks.

Every now and then,  I am witness to amazing events that make me stop and pause.  I am not sure that  the religion or cultural beliefs,  that you may or may not prescribe to, is as relevant as the overwhelming universal presence of God at the end of life.  I truly believe that during the last days of someone’s life, there is a spiritual journey that is really only the beginning.  Often times, it becomes quite evident that human strength and spirit will override medicine and science.  The following story is a beautiful demonstration of a woman whose spirit had not completed her earthly journey.

This family’s journey through Hospice began around Thanksgiving last year,  when their matriarch was starting to really have some significant health problems that were becoming difficult to manage.  When I admitted this very spunky little patient,  she had lived of life of 86 years full of memories and stories of family.  She was born in a little town outside of San Antonio, the second oldest child of thirteen.  For her entire life  she was committed to her family, community, and church as she raised her own four children.  She was adored by her loved ones and played a significant role in the lives of her grandchildren and great- grandchildren.

Initially everyone was fearful of hospice and the road that lied ahead.  This family did not want to lose their cherished loved one. They could also recognize that her failing health was not allowing her to be the vibrant woman they always knew her to be.  It is hard to watch someone as they struggle with losing their independence, but this family put their fear aside, and put their love for her first.

Now I don’t want you think that my new hospice patient was a frail little lady, indeed she was very strong in her nature.  She knew what she wanted, and she was not afraid to share what was on her mind.  She loved ice cream and barbecue sandwiches, and she never lost the ability to find a reason to smile.

 It is not unusual for hospice patients in general to set little milestones for themselves, which I believe reinforces a sense of hope in life.  Christmas is obviously a very big milestone for many people. I once had a patient whose final milestone was the Spurs Championships, people love their basketball team here.  Another very common one is naturally a birthday, and this one in specific lends to be very  significant.

 I suspect that her birthday was an important milestone for my sweet little patient.  She persevered through her declining health, and her spirit was determined to celebrate her 87th birthday.  The family lovingly cared for her every need for several months approaching this milestone.

As the spring approached, she did celebrate her birthday on March 18th.  It was amazing to watch!  After being confined to her home and her bed primarily, she rallied and got into a car while they drove her to Luling, Texas to see her all her loved ones and celebrate such a special day.  That was on a Saturday, and I went to visit her the following Monday.  She was smiling and pleased, but she was also was suddenly very weak and no longer willing to eat food  or take any medications.

Naturally the family was concerned about the changes  they were seeing, but their loved one told them very clearly that she was “tired and just wanted to rest”.  During the next few days, she started to go through the stages that we see from a clinical perspective that signify that the physical body is winding down.   As a hospice caregiver, we stepped in to  support her during this time, ensuring that she was comfortable and peaceful throughout the process.  This period of time can last a couple of days, and sometimes several weeks, and is often a very mysterious and spiritual time for everyone involved in caring for their loved one.

 Patients will sleep very deeply during this time, but there is an understanding that the senses are heightened.  Most specifically the sense of hearing, which is the last sense to leave when we pass over.  It is believed that during this state of dying,  people will often have profound short bursts of lucidity.

 After four days of no longer eating or drinking, my patient was very peaceful and comfortable due the family’s faithful care that they provided.  I went and visited her on that Thursday, and my sweet little patient was very critically unstable.  We use all sorts of measurements in nursing to assist us in determining the state of someone’s health, and vital signs are often very telling.  There will come a point in everyone’s journey when someone’s blood pressure, heart rate, and level of.  oxygenation are no longer vital or compatible with life.  This is when a person truly becomes imminent and it often referred to as the “eleventh hour”.  On that day,  I spoke with all of the family members,  and prepared them that their loved one could pass over at any time now. In essence her fate was completely in the hands of God.

We continued to support her for many days to follow, ensuring that she was comfortable, which required around the clock care.   If my unstable patients were admitted to the hospital at this point, they would be placed immediately into the ICU and life support measures would have to occur keep them alive.  This amazing woman continued to live for many days to follow, even though she remained very critical from a clinical standpoint. The family never wavered and stood vigil with great loyalty.

After seven very long days,  she remained in her eleventh hour. Day after day defying scientific reasoning, and I could offer no explanation for her survival.  The only reason I could present,  was that she was hanging on because her soul was seeking out some kind of resolve.  On the morning of April 6th,  the family was discussing how everyone had talked to her and given her permission to pass over. This is a very powerful element at someone’s end of life and the for  healing of the  survivors. There was one person in the family that was having a hard time coping with the anticipated loss, and that was her younger brother.  The family shared that he was unable to come and visit her because he was having a hard time being able to see his sister in that condition.  Was there a possibility that she needed to make that final connection with her brother?  Was she waiting for him to come?

I received a call that afternoon from her granddaughter, who tearfully told me that her grandmother had taken her last breath. I told her how sorry I was for her loss, and that I was headed over there right away.  It was when she told me what had happened in those final moments.

The family had phoned her brother earlier that afternoon, and had asked him again to please come and see his sister before she passed away.  Her brother agreed and came by that afternoon.  They spent some time together as a united family, and even the family  took photos to remember the moment.  Her brother said his goodbyes and left, and it was only minutes later that she was finally able to let go.

As I drove over to their home that afternoon, I was reflecting on their journey and how this amazing woman was now free from the confinement of her body.  Her soul was at finally at peace now.  Then I started to think about the  definition of a miracle……It is defined as  “an extraordinary event manifesting divine intervention in human affairs”.  The Christian Science definition is “a divinely natural phenomenon experienced humanly as the fulfillment of spiritual law.”

I am struck by the overwhelming sense that the grace of God was present, and through that my patient was allowed to say goodbye to her brother.  So while it was not a miracle of healing or recovery from illness, it was still very much a miracle.  I will never forget this beautiful woman with her strength and courage.  I offer my most sincere condolences to her loving family for their loss, as I know how much she will be missed.  It is my hope that they will reflect back on this time over the next few  years to come, remembering a woman who is now free from her bondage and  that was truly graced by God in her final days and hours.  I want say a special thank you to the family for allowing me to share their journey.





26 Comments

  • ches April 9, 2017 at 12:01 pm

    We as a family are suffering a similar imminent loss. Unfortunately, there seems to be no room at the local hospice and the patient is in hospital where there is a shortage of staff and the care is done mostly by his wife.
    They even forgot to give him his medication one of the days and his blood pressure dropped so low it couldn’t be read. They quickly realized their mistake and gave his 15 meds all at once, which in my mind was not a good idea.
    We were told at the weekend, he wouldn’t survive until midweek.
    Then, a new doctor came on the ward, one very hot on physiotherapy. He got the patient up and told him to march on the spot for a minute, which he did. He then said he needs to do that regularly to get the body moving , which he has. The patient took himself to the bathroom during the night and has now stabilized. This man has only 20% of his heart working but this new doctor seemed to get him motivated.
    We are still hoping there is a space in the hospice, but meanwhile sincerely pray that this new medic does not leave the hospital as is often the case. I really enjoyed reading your post. Thanks, Ches

    Reply
    • Heather Williams RN CHPN April 9, 2017 at 3:54 pm

      Hi Ches,
      I am sorry to hear that the availability of services are limited. In the US we provide care in the home, and the loved ones are usually our primary caregivers. I know the practice of hospice differs on geographic regions, and hope that your loved one and your family are able to get some support very soon in such a stressful time. Let me know if I can be of an assistance.
      Take Care,
      Heather

      Reply
  • Jeremy April 9, 2017 at 3:51 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing this story, it was very touching. I’m also in nursing, and have witnessed the passing of patients in the hospital. While it can be difficult to go through, both for the patient and friends and families, it is something we all have to go through. I think hospice can help ease the transition is well (thank you for serving in this area too). Religion can help as well, and even if someone doesn’t utilize Christianity, I think most come to the realization and hope that there is something more after life.

    Reply
    • Heather Williams RN CHPN April 10, 2017 at 2:21 pm

      Thank you as well for your service as a nurse and for taking the time to read my post. Hope is my favorite word.
      Take Care, Heather

      Reply
  • Mike Mahaffey April 9, 2017 at 5:15 pm

    HI Heather

    I really appreciate you sharing with us in this post. Sometimes death is far more traumatizing for families than for the person leaving this world.

    It is great for you to share your experience with hospice care because it can be such a traumatic move for families everywhere.

    I wish I could find social share buttons on your site so that I could share it with my friends on F/B. You write so well, and your articles are certainly worth sharing.

    Thanks

    Reply
    • Heather Williams RN CHPN April 10, 2017 at 2:14 pm

      Thank you so much Mike. I will have with update my site to include the social share buttons.
      Take Care, Heather

      Reply
  • FreddieC April 11, 2017 at 2:47 am

    That’s amazing. I have always heard stories of people holding out until certain events happen. I think something like that happened with my grandmother. She had not seen her grandson (my brother) for about 5 years because he was overseas. In the month of July my brother sent word that he would be coming to visit in December. Every month my grandmother would ask “when is he coming again”. December finally came and she was overjoyed to see not only her grandson but also a great grandson. Less than a week after my brother’s arrival, my grandmother died. I am convinced she was holding out to see him.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
  • Heather Williams RN CHPN April 11, 2017 at 3:07 am

    Thank you for sharing your experience. I love hearing of stories of people with amazing spirits.
    Many Blessings,
    Heather

    Reply
  • Eril April 11, 2017 at 12:42 pm

    Thank you for sharing your experience. It is unforgettable and deeply moving to witness another person’s soul pass on. I can only imagine that doing so as an occupation must be very enriching for you and that you have as many unique stories to tell as there have been souls passing through. Best wishes on your journey.

    Reply
  • Heather Williams RN CHPN April 11, 2017 at 1:38 pm

    Amen! Thank you for reading my story.
    Many Blessings,
    Heather

    Reply
  • Darin Marshall April 12, 2017 at 12:47 am

    What a beautiful story. And you told it so well. Beautiful writing! I believe in the grace of God. There are no boundaries in what he will let unfold. My condolences to the family on there loss and many thanks for letting you write this story. This story gets a A++ 🙂

    Great job!!
    Darin

    Reply
    • Heather Williams RN CHPN April 12, 2017 at 1:08 am

      Thank you Darin for taking the time to read my article. You would not believe how often I see this type of phenomenon. It really does comfort me actually. Many Blessings to You and Your Family. Take Care, Heather

      Reply
  • Deb April 20, 2017 at 11:49 am

    Dear Heather,
    thank yyou very much for sharing this personal experience with us! I am a doctor myself and I have witnessed the passing over of patients many times in my life. I couldn’t agree more with you that yes, you actually do feel the moment when the Spirit leaves the Body. I don’t know if that proves the presence of God; I do know though and I firmly believe that the energy of our essence isn’t gone or lost when we die. Your insight into the matter is very touching and I am absolutely certain that you provide the best of care for all your patients! Thanks again and all the best for you!
    Deb

    Reply
    • Heather Williams RN CHPN April 20, 2017 at 9:17 pm

      Thank you so much for the comment and your input. That story was really just one of many. I have witnessed some amazing things in Hospice, and those powerful moments change the way you view life as whole. Thank you for the work that you do as well, from a fellow humanitarian.
      Take Care, Heather

      Reply
  • Laurie April 20, 2017 at 7:42 pm

    What a heartfelt story Heather, it was so compelling that I couldn’t stop reading – I think I needed to read it as I have recently lost my sister to Cancer and she was bed-bound 6 months prior to her passing. We too had blessed hospice help. In the beginning we didn’t really want to get help from Hospice, it felt like it was admitting defeat – but the opposite is true. I also saw the peace my sister felt when she had surrendered to God, she was unafraid and it gave me peace. Thanks for the article

    Reply
    • Heather Williams RN CHPN April 21, 2017 at 3:46 am

      Thank you so much for sharing your story about your sister. I am sorry for your loss, Cancer can really tough. Many Blessing to you and your loved ones.
      Take Care,
      Heather

      Reply
  • derrall April 27, 2017 at 9:45 pm

    Thank you for sharing this story,

    It was just over 2 years ago that my wife’s mother was admitted to hospital due to a minor heart attack.
    A few days later, she underwent open heart surgery, which was only partly successful.
    Hospice care was one option that was being considered, however, she was a woman who had lived life on her terms and was going to die on her terms.

    Ultimately, it was 25 days after surgery that we took her off life-support — at her insistence. During that time, there was a 2 day period where she showed some strength, but that was during a time that was arranged for some of her close friends to visit with her. Aside from that it was only immediate family who spent any time with her.

    I was surprised at how deeply I was affected by the passing of my mother-in-law. To be honest, I thought she would recover.

    You have a special gift to be able to work with those who are nearing the end of their life as we know it. Be sure to keep yourself nurtured so that you can continue to serve others.

    all the best,

    Reply
    • Heather Williams RN CHPN April 28, 2017 at 5:19 am

      Thank you so much for sharing your experience. Watching someone pass away in a hospital setting can be grueling. Thank you for taking the time to read my article and for the lovely compliment.
      Take Care,
      Heather

      Reply
  • Karden June 10, 2017 at 11:18 am

    This is a touching and heartful post, it’s a wonderful story and thank you, for sharing it.

    Hospice is a very difficult time for everyone involved from the patient to the family and caregivers. I myself have gone through a loss of a loved one in hospice care and the road can be long or short, you never know.

    We as a family knew when it was time our loved one would move on to a better more peaceful place and would no longer be suffering.

    Great post to help and support those who have gone through losing a loved one.

    God Bless You,

    Reply
  • Darren July 7, 2017 at 6:35 am

    I think just looking around and examining creation itself is proof that God (or a higher, intelligent being) exists. It’s only the ego of the human race wanting to be top of the creative and intelligence chain that prevents many from believing.

    This is a very touching story you have related here, and yes, I believe miracles do happen all the time. Thanks for sharing this.

    Reply
    • Heather Williams RN CHPN July 7, 2017 at 5:36 pm

      I agree you that the presence of God is everywhere, you just have to look a little closer sometimes. Thank you for taking the time to read about this miracle.
      Many Blessings to you, Heather

      Reply
  • Wendi August 5, 2017 at 5:15 pm

    Wow. what a beautiful and touching story! “Fear not death, but a life not lived.” This woman lived her life to the full and that was evident in the way her family handled her passing. They knew that she would never be able to return to her youth and vigor no matter how long she stayed alive, and they loved her enough to let go. I can totally understand where the younger brother was coming from–I don’t think I could ever see my siblings sick, laid up in a bed and on hospice care, although I know that it is a reality, and one day it will come. It will definitely be one of the hardest things I will ever see. I also appreciated your compassion and doing all you could to make her comfortable and providing a source of comfort to her family. I can only hope that I have that kind of love and support around me when it is my time to go. That’s why its so important to remain close to those that you care about the most, and to be there for them when they need you. Tomorrow is not promised even to the young, so we have to love each other every day like we’ll never see each other again. Thanks so much for sharing!

    Reply
    • Heather Williams RN CHPN August 7, 2017 at 5:52 pm

      Hi Wendi,
      Thank you so much for this lovely comment and input. I completely agree with you the we have to love each other every day, and try to savor those really awesome precious moments.
      Take Care, Heather

      Reply
  • christine curry May 16, 2018 at 9:46 pm

    What an amazing story, and Miracles do happen, my son is living proof as you I do believe. People that do what you do I don’t think receive enough credibility and this world today needs more people like you, God Bless

    Reply

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