I believe there are two sides to the phenomenon known as death,this side where we live, and the other side where we shall continue to live.
- Dr. Norman Vincent Peale
I was on call one evening while working as a hospice nurse. We knew our own patients really well, everything about them, what medicines they were on, where they lived, how close they were to death.
But when you were on call in those days, you carried a book that told you about all the other patients and families not directly under your care and whom you might not know as well.
On one cold, wintery night with a light snow falling, I was called out to see such a patient. She was a Jewish woman in her late 80s cared for by her husband, who loved her tenderly and well. His only concern was her welfare, safety and comfort, and he wanted to make sure she had immediate attention when she needed someone or something.
The call came at about three in the morning, the way they often do. The notes in her chart from her nurse said she was beginning to decline and quickly approaching her dying time.
They lived in a huge apartment complex not far from my home, but between us were winding streets, long driveways and thousands of apartments side-by-side; I wondered how in the world I would ever find them.
Her husband explained that they had lived in Germany during the early part of the war. As Jews they had to be careful not to draw attention to themselves for fear of being discovered, so they placed a simple white candle in the window of their home to light the way for others.
Tonight would be the same. The candle became for them the “light” of the world for her care and showed me the way to her bedside just in time. As I entered her room, she and her husband were saying their last goodbyes. She had just seen her mother and father, who had died in the Holocaust, and had recognized a sister she only vaguely remembered from childhood.
She was having her glimpses of heaven here on earth, right before God took her home. As sad as it was to been present for their parting, they assured me they would be together again—after all, she had seen her loved ones and knew where they were. She knew they were waiting for her and she was anxious to be with them again. She died just a few hours later.