Telling this young mother her child was close to death was one of the hardest things I have ever done.
This story was written by my very good friend and coworker Dianne Rigby, a pediatric nurse. It is a wonderful example of the intimacy, awareness and love hospices nurses have for all patients in their care, especially the little ones. Hospice nurses are very attuned to the symptoms of their terminally ill and dying patients, and usually know just how close they are to transitioning into their next life. Often they are moved to do something that can’t easily be understood by the naked eye or human heart. You learn early on not to doubt or second-guess yourself but to move when the Holy Spirit nudges you. This story clearly shows what happens when you do.
Nicholas was almost six months old. He had been born to Sarah and Mathew with a rare genetic condition and was sent home shortly after his birth under hospice care. His parents were eager to love and care for him, along with the help of his 3-year-old sister, Hannah. His illness left Nicholas with decreased muscle tone and an inability to control much of his body movements and breathing. It also caused him to suffer intermittently with severe pain.
On a Friday afternoon, I called to check on Nicholas and asked if I could stop by, just to give him a hug! I had already visited earlier in the week and he was doing well, so there was no real reason for me to be stopping by again. In retrospect, the Lord wanted me to visit that day and this all became very clear to everyone as the events of the day unfolded.
As I entered the home, I remember it being full of sweet fellowship. Sarah’s mom and sister were enjoying being with the family. I was thankful to meet them and excited to hold Nicholas. Sarah placed him in my arms and left me with him while she went to be with her mom and sister in another room. After a few moments, I remember clearly feeling the presence of the Holy Spirit and thinking, No, this can’t be happening.
In my heart, I felt that Nicholas was going home to God very soon. Not now! I thought. This was a joyful occasion; we were all celebrating together. Although Nicholas did have a life-limiting disease, he did not appear to be any closer to death that day than you or me! He was alive, peaceful and comfortable, and had no signs of decline.
I very hesitantly called Sarah over. Telling this young mother her child was about to die, right in the middle of this celebration, was one of the hardest things I have ever done.
Sarah came over and sat down next to me and I shared with her that I thought Nicholas was close to death, and within seconds his color started to change. I placed him in his mother’s arms; 30 minutes later, he had gone home to heaven.
I think Sarah said it best when she described that day as seeing God’s presence so clearly in what was the best and worst day of their lives. Her only wish had been that she be there holding Nicholas when the time came for him to leave his earthly family for heaven. Her wish came true that day. You see, Nicholas died 5 months and 28 days after he was born, and although he had never smiled, not once in his young life, yet as he was leaving he had a smile on his face.
We all understood this as God’s way of letting us know he was with him. This is the miracle that Sarah holds tightly in her heart.
Trudy gets so many questions and stories of end-of-life experiences from Guideposts readers, we decided to make her responses a regular feature on her blog. If you have a story about a “glimpse of heaven,” please share it with us. Send it to [email protected].