A friend recommended that I meet Rebecca because she was dying of colon cancer and our mutual friend thought I might offer some solace to Rebecca because of my unusual perspective about dying.
I called Rebecca and she was happy to meet. I went to her house and could see that she was living with a lot of pain and looked very wasted from the cancer. Rebecca was in good spirits though and asked me why I had come. I told her that I did a lot of work with hospice and people who were dying, and that I had had a near death experience myself, and since she was at Stage IV colon cancer she might want someone to talk to about the dying process. I told her I had brought some books that she could look through and would leave them for her if she wanted.
My saying this agitated Rebecca dramatically. She got up from the couch and started pacing around the room. She said that her whole focus had to be on living and that she could not even entertain the thought of dying. She felt that by talking or thinking about death that it invited it to her and she wanted to live so she only wanted to have thoughts that supported her living. She said that if anyone in her family saw that she had books about dying around the house that would upset them greatly because she hadn’t told her family that she was so ill.
I recovered as best I could and we talked about other things and then shortly after I left – taking my books with me. I offered to Rebecca to call me if I could help her in any way.
I kept tabs on Rebecca to see how she was doing through our mutual friend. Rebecca continued to decline, needing more and more assistance from her friends for caretaking.
Rebecca’s last moments
Tonight I went to Hospice for my regular volunteering shift from 4-7 p.m. I noticed that Rebecca’s name was on the list of patients. I went to visit her and she had two friends visiting her, Charlotte and William. I told them I knew Rebecca and they invited me to join them. Rebecca was unconscious, lying on her side, doing what is called Cheney-Stokes breathing. It is common at the end of life, and it is a sort of gaspy and quick breath. It is one of the final stages of dying so I knew the end for Rebecca was very close.
Rebecca was expected to die yesterday because she was also doing the Cheney-Stokes breathing yesterday, and everyone was amazed that she lived through the night. Her children said goodbye to her yesterday, and were not planning on coming back to Hospice/Austin during her final moments.
Rebecca was lying on her side and she was getting a morphine drip every 10 minutes. Charlotte, William and I talked about Rebecca and how we knew her. I was feeling quite comfortable because the room was peaceful and had a settled feeling to it. We visited for about an hour and then noticed that Rebecca’s breathing had changed. There were now long pauses after each of her exhalations, and the gasping breath was becoming softer, not as harsh. Rebecca’s eyes rolled back in her head and she coughed slightly. We thought that was her last breath.
The energy in the room became very expanded. The room seemed to glow with a white pulsating light. Then she took one more inhale and her eyes became very alert, focused and lucid, and she stared right at me since I was sitting directly in front of her. I felt an overwhelming feeling of love. The light in the room continued to pulse. Rebecca’s eyes rolled back in her head again. She coughed softly and exhaled, and there was no more breathing after that.
We waited a few minutes and William read a few verses from the Bible. Then I got the hospice nurse to pronounce Rebecca’s death. 6:28 p.m. The nurses said they were going to get Rebecca cleaned up and asked the friends to leave the room. I asked to stay because for some reason I didn’t want Rebecca left unattended.
The nurses were very discreet and cleaned Rebecca and changed her sheets, pillow case, and put her into a clean hospital gown. They straightened out her body so she was lying on her back, with her arms alongside her body. The nurses left the room and I positioned Rebecca’s hands over her heart. I closed her eyes, and held my hand cupped under her chin so that her open mouth would close as rigormortis set in. I put a flower by her hands and placed her beautiful fleece blanket over her legs. [This was one of the blankets that she had on her couch and covered herself with whenever I visited with her.]
Charlotte and William came back in and then Charlotte left after a few minutes. William asked the hospice nurse to call the funeral home to come and get Rebecca’s body. William and I visited and he told me he wanted to become a hospice volunteer because he was so touched by his experience at Christopher House. About an hour later the funeral home came by and William and I wanted to remain in the room as they transferred Rebecca’s body to the gurney. The young man from the funeral home was very professional, and very modest and discrete with Rebecca as he moved her. I told him that I wanted to be the one to cover Rebecca’s face before he took her away. He said that was fine, and he positioned her on the gurney covered with a sheet. I asked him to also cover her with her beautiful fleece blanket so she would have something known to her accompany her on this part of the journey. This seemed important to me for some reason. He positioned the blanket over Rebecca and then William and I spread out the velvet drape over her and covered her face, saying goodbye to her one last time. Rebecca’s body was rolled out of the room on the gurney.
William was exhausted and so I stayed to remove Rebecca’s belongings from the room. There were get-well cards and photos, her Daytimer book, and her glasses. I was honored to be the one about to help her bring things to closure. Rebecca gifted me enormously by allowing me to witness her departure.
That night I had a very significant dream. In the dream I was told that anything and everything we did was ok. There was nothing we could do that was wrong. Even the littlest thing could not be done wrong—this was very strongly emphasized. I took this as a beautiful dream message from Rebecca.