What happens when the family fully expects a loved one to die, and he doesn’t? One family gathered around the bed of the husband and father, confirmed one more time that he didn’t want the “forced air” mask on any more, and said their goodbyes. After 18 hours, he’s still here. They hovered and stared at him for awhile, their pastor gave a sermon, read scripture, had prayer, confessional, and everything else he could think of to set the stage for the grand exit, but he didn’t die, yet. They don’t know what else to say to him, and have settled into keeping watch in shifts as they try to relax as much as possible. The vigil is unexpectedly long. What could be the purpose of such a wait? I believe it’s possible that everyone is learning a great deal from the experience, not the least of which is that we are not in control of such things. The need for patience to wait for the dying process will be most valuable to all the survivors. They will now have a new benchmark for future vigils in terms of, “this is what we did with dad.” They also learn that the human body can be extremely durable, and the human will like iron. It won’t be much longer, but the trajectory of his decline will simply be much flatter and slower than anticipated. We never stop learning, and being surprised.
Watch and share this five minute video about the need for prophylactic end-of-life conversations. Laura Heldebrand, an ICU nurse tells her mother's story.
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