One thing I try to remind families before they go in to say final goodbyes to a loved one, is that he/she can hear you even if they don’t respond. Speak from your heart, speak in love, let them know it is okay to let go.
I always allow for privacy and will exit the room for however long goodbye will take. I am very aware that I am already neck deep in these most intimate affairs, and I know my place.
I enjoy every aspect of my job from the physical caring, to the emotional connections, to the paperwork and organizational aspects. The one thing I haven’t touched on is the spiritual and eternal responsibility that isn’t outlined in any contract I have signed . The one you didn’t hire me for, but the one your dying family member will get. It might be considered controversial and inappropriate, unprofessional and just plain wrong to many, but, I will admit that I always get a moment alone with my patients, towards the end and I tell them a few things.
First I say what an honor and privilege it has been to have been a part of this process. I may refer to some special memories we shared together and what it meant to me. And I always end with the message that they need to hear last, or as close to last as circumstances allow. The message never changes from one patient to the next, because it`s one of those truths that stands the test of cancer and car wrecks, Alzheimer’s and ALS, Sarcoma and heart disease. Everything. Even death. Mine. Yours. All of ours.
I tell them ,” I want you to know that Jesus loves you. He loves us so much that He died on the cross and took all of our sin so that we could stand worthy before God. He wants a relationship with you so that when you meet Him tonight you can know you will be with Him forever. He wants you to know that even if you had been the only person in the world He would have died for just you. If you haven’t asked Jesus in to your heart and want to, it isn’t too late. Ask Jesus to come now. Ask for forgiveness for sin and invite Him into your heart. Believe that He died for you and that the only way to Eternal Life has been paved through Jesus sacrifice and defeat of death. If you will do that now and pray with me, Jesus is waiting to take you home.”
And I pray with them. For them. It is so wonderful to get the chance to say final goodbyes to a loved one. It is quite another, to have that confidence that you will see them again. I have no possible way of knowing what takes place between a person I pray with and his maker. I don’t know if they quietly reject or curse God in those last moments. I don’t know if they say ” Come Lord Jesus”.
I can say without a doubt in my mind that in one of those moments, I felt the presence of God so definitely that it filled the room and shook me to my very being. It was undeniable and so palpable, trying to describe it…impossible.
I may work very hard and tirelessly, no doubt, to do justice to those I serve, to be a comfort and a source of relief to the families that let me in to there lives. But, truly, the last thing I want to be heard when the world gets dim and still is the hope and promise and peace that comes from knowing Jesus Christ.
If I don’t let that be known, then I haven’t done my real job or fulfilled my greatest calling.