If only: A beautiful death

by  Andrea Powell, HPCCR Electronic Communications Manager

She’s a hospice social worker, so she has witnessed death many, many times.  But never like this one.  This one, she’ll never forget.

A few months ago, Beth Rosenberg was asked to accompany one of our palliative physicians to the ICU at Carolinas Medical Center.  She was there, she was told, to provide emotional support to a family whose loved one was being taken off of a ventilator.  The patient was in her late 60s, and was unresponsive after a bad fall. 

Beth was prepared for emotional devastation; for family members wailing and sobbing uncontrollably.  That’s not what happened.

Beth entered the room with our HPCCR physician who calmly explained the procedure for removing the ventilator.  The physician told the family what to expect from the patient, and then wrote the medical orders necessary to make the whole process pain-free.  All decisions that were made were done so with only the comfort of the patient in mind. 

As the tube was removed, the chaplain in the room began chanting a hymn.  The family members circled around the bed, holding hands, joining in.  Of course there were tears.  How could there not be?  A very loved member of a family was dying.  But there was not the expected hysteria.  Just deep sadness and overwhelming love.

This death will remain in Beth’s memory for one important reason.  The family was so incredibly respectful of the dying process.  They had accepted what was going to happen and they had decided to make sure that their loved one left this world in a cherished state.  Even though she could not show it, they were certain that she could hear them and feel them.  Certain that she knew the depth of their love.  And that’s how they wanted her to go. 

If only more deaths could mirror this one.  If only we could take the fear out of dying.  If only the word “beautiful” could become more commonplace when talking about death.

That would indeed be a cherished state.

Explore posts in the same categories: advance directives, awareness, end of life

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3 Comments on “If only: A beautiful death”

  1. Samantha Says:

    I am openly weeping at my desk… you have such a way with words, thank you Andrea.

  2. Milissa Hubbard Says:

    What great timing that I just read this column. On May 3rd my family made the decision to take my mother off of the ventilator. this took place in Cooperstown NY. My father, sister, and all the grandchildren were there with her along with the chaplain and the hospice nurse. There was no hysteria, just a peaceful good bye as we held my mother’s hands.

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