A moving Scandinavian tradition for those near death hits close to home.
by Trudy Harris — Posted in Coping With Grief on Mar 19, 2012
The other evening I watched a Johnson & Johnson commercial celebrating nurses and all they do for their patients. The nurse introduced herself as a hospice nurse and was seated on the side of the bed with her patient, Berta Olsen.
Berta had told her of a tradition in Denmark that reminded people to leave a window open in the room of a dying person so that the soul could move on after death. The nurse replied, “Not tonight Berta, not tonight,” letting the patient know it was not yet her time to die. The piece was very, very accurate and so reminiscent of the many times I sat just like that with a patient close to death.
Many years ago I sat on the floor next to my father-in-law’s chair as he was dying and I had a similar experience. It was before hospice work had become part of my life and I had not yet experienced all the wonderful things God allows you to see and understand as he draws one of his children home.
My father-in-law’s breathing was slowing down, his color changing, and he was becoming very peaceful. Suddenly but very gently, I clearly saw something white move away from his body and glide out of the window in front of him. I remember saying, “You have his spirit now, Lord, please let his body shut down.” I had no idea why I said it except that what I had seen was real.
Years later, while I was actively caring for dying patients, a friend told me of a similar experience she’d had. She was sitting with her husband as he took his last breath when suddenly the window in the hospital room blew open with no wind or breeze in sight. My friend was startled because it was midsummer and a very quiet evening. The nurse in attendance smiled and simply said to my friend, “His spirit has just left his body; he is free now and at peace.”
The comfort of her words never left my friend. Theirs had been a great love story, and she repeated the story many times over the years. That part of us, the soul or spirit that belongs to God alone, lives forever with him. She knew he was safe now and would be waiting for her.