Friday, April 20, 2007

No One Dies Alone

Our hospital has a wonderful program called No One Dies Alone (NODA). This program was developed because of the many patients who are in our hospital and are critically ill. Often times, their life on earth is nearing an end but they do not have friends or family to be with them during their final hours. The NODA program is designed to give all people the dignity of a peaceful passing by ensuring that a compassionate companion is with them at all times so that no one dies alone.

Today was my first vigil. I arrived in a room where an elderly gentleman lay peacefully in his bed. ( I cannot share his name because of HIPAA so I will simply call him Mr. Glen) Soft music was playing and the compassionate companion who preceded me greeted me and gave me instruction as I would now spend the next hour with this elderly gentleman. I signed in and did the cursory paperwork and then sat next to the bed of my new friend. I introduced myself and let him know that I would right here beside him. I placed my hand on his shoulder to give him comfort in knowing that I was there.

His blood pressure was very low and his breathing was not labored but included long pauses between breathes. His skin was thin and his eyes closed. He was not responsive but I didn't assume that he couldn't hear me as I talked. In fact, I hoped he could.

I wondered what his story was. At 79 years old, what had life taught him? Was he married? Did he have children? If so, why was he alone? These were questions that I would not be able to answer, but it didn't matter, because for some reason God had intended for the two of us to be together for the next few moments.

I spoke gently to my new friend. In the last hours of his life, I felt compelled to tell him about God's wonderful love for him. I thought if anyone, at any hour, needs peace in their soul, only the love of God would truly satisfy. So I shared with Mr. Glen how much we all need that love. And Jesus came to make that possible. If we trust Him and His sacrifice on the cross, we have a peace with God for all eternity. That is the love God wanted him to know.

His breathing increased just slightly. That was the only response I could see.

I didn't know where Mr. Glen was in his faith or if he had faith at all, but I tried to comfort him by reminding him that his trust in Jesus was all that he needed to have the peace and comfort he desired.

His breathing slowed and there was silence as the music continued to play in the background. I wondered how, or even why, he was still alive. What was the motivation of this elderly man to continue to take in breaths of life. So I spoke softly once again.

"Mr. Glen, you can rest in the arms of Jesus. Trust him and he will give you peace. Don't be afraid. You can let go and rest in Him when you are ready. He has something wonderful prepared just for you."

We sat silently for just a few minutes more. His breathing was slow and then silent. As I sat next to the bedside with my hand on his shoulder and a prayer in my heart, Mr. Glen breathed his last. I have to believe he decided to let go and trust in God's wonderful love. Perhaps he knows better than I the peace that passes all understanding.

Thank you Jesus.

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