Eternity does not start with death. We are in eternity now.
- Norman Vincent Peale
I have been privileged to be with many friends, patients and loved ones who were recuperating after surgery, healing after a trauma or coming close to their time of dying. “When am I going to die?” is a question I often have been asked while visiting terminally ill patients.
I say that their doctor can tell them how their disease is progressing, the lab can tell them how their blood work looks, and I can tell them honestly how much time I think they have, but that God himself will speak to their spirit and let them know when he is calling them home. They are often content with that answer.
I remember one patient saying on my very first visit, “I’m really glad you are going to be my nurse—can I still have a drink and a smoke in the afternoon [without the oxygen on]? And when am I going to die?”
Then one day I was called to his house early in the morning. He looked at me and said, “Remember the day you told me that God would speak to my spirit and let me know when my time had come? Well, he told me today that this is my day.” To me, he did not appear to be close to his time at all, but he was emphatic.
I had prayed earlier in the day with him, as he had asked, but now he needed more. His early background was in the Catholic Church and I sensed that he was longing to hear the prayers of his youth one more time.
We said the Our Father, the Hail Mary, the Glory Be to the Father and the Act of Contrition together. “That’s right, honey,” he said. “That’s right.” He was immediately comforted and died gently that afternoon; it was all he needed to let go and be at peace. He had heard God speak to his spirit and although he was only 54 years old, he followed his master home to heaven.