All I knew was her name and that her husband had decided to stop her pain. He agreed to have her compassionately extubated from the ventilator that was breathing for her, but not making her well. She could die any minute or any day. I learned that he could not tolerate the idea of being with her when she died. I didn’t know him or his story. All I knew was that she was alone. I didn’t know her religious tradition, if she had one, or what brought her peace.
The nurses caring for her found this situation intolerable and they wanted someone to be with her as she died. It was almost a begging. I sat with her. I offered her a blessing from my heart. I told her what was happening and that she was being well taken care of.
I returned when it was time to compassionately extubate her. Everyone seemed quite nervous. There was pacing, voices raised, questions being asked. I stood next to her and sang through the chaos. I said to myself “Bring a non-anxious presence. Bring an awareness of the sacred to the room.” I sang gently, softly, and stroked her head. The tears came. She looked uncomfortable.
I became the beggar now, pleading with the doctors to give more medicine. She was awake and appeared in distress. This was not the plan. She was supposed to die peacefully. I kept singing, hoping to bring some calm, some peace. To her and to the staff. My tears also started to flow.
“Go in peace, go in kindness, go in love, go in faith. Leave the day, the day behind us, day is done, go in grace. Let us go into the night, not afraid, not alone. Let us hope, by some good pleasure, safely to arrive at home. Let us hope, by some good pleasure, safely to arrive at home.” (Sam Baker)
Were the words of this song calming or upsetting to her? I found them calming and the staff did, but I wasn’t sure if she did. She couldn’t tell me. I listened deeply to her face, her tears, my intuition. Because I wasn’t sure, I shifted. I sang only the sweet melody and then another and another. I washed her face.
The medicine started to work and she found calm. She fell into a deep sleep. I felt assured that she was comfortable and I said goodbye. She died within the hour.
I think she died in peace. I hope so.