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A Heartbeat Stops - Another Begins

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Specializes in I've done it all!! I exceed expectations.

When the RN must record no pulse, no respiration, what goes through their mind? Thoughts on the afterlife and the legacy we want to leave behind.

A Heartbeat Stops - Another Begins

My cell phone rang while I was at work this weekend. I was at the nurses' station surrounded by the nursing staff that I supervise as a charge nurse.

Ignoring stares and silent comments that "you are the enforcer of no cell phones at work", I answered with my usual confident smile.

"Hi Robert". (Name changed to protect privacy.)

It was the nurse from another unit. His name is saved in my phone as the supervisor of the facility.

"Bring your stethoscope".

Someone had passed away, and I was needed to confirm no pulse.

Every time this happens - and it does on a regular basis in my profession - there's always the twinge of questions about death and dying.

Is this the beginning or the end? Where is my patient now? Is the spirit still in the room? Is there a spirit anymore? Will this person ever exist again?

In addition, the persistent personal question always comes to my mind, "Who will hold my hand when I die?"

My lifelong church membership dictates that I believe in the resurrection with the second coming of Christ. Oh yes, that's if I've been "good" and have faith in Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. According to my particular church beliefs, when I "die", I do NOT go right to Heaven, as most people believe. I will NOT be watching over those I leave behind. Nor am I able to come back and commune with those I've loved in this lifetime.

According to my religious upbringing, I AM ASLEEP! However, not really asleep...

The only absolutely agreed belief that no one denies, is that I am DEAD.

For certain, my patient was lying in her bed, mouth open, eyes closed, not breathing. No pulse. She looked to be nearly 100-years old. She was dead.

Her husband was SLEEPING in the bed on the other side of the room. We discussed who would wake him up to inform him of his wife's passing. Maybe Hospice could do that a little later. It would be very sad.

While we often boast about what we believe of the afterlife, I really doubt that anyone truly, honestly, knows the answer deep in their hearts. We all want some reassurance, but I don't think there is any PROOF of life after death - now or later - here or anywhere else. (Sorry, fellow church members.)

Of course, this is purely my opinion. But, one I reflect on several times a month. Not, just every few years as with most people who lose a good friend, precious relative, or even beloved PET in death.

My suggestion here in this short piece on death and our future is that you live your life with a passion for leaving behind the most wonderful, positive, memories for those who knew and will continue remember and miss you.

There rises the question of good and evil. Is there evil in the universe, or just here on this earth? What is good? What is evil?

Later, back at the nurses' station, some older nurses were remembering the patient and her husband, as they had both lived at this facility for several years. Stories were told about the antics, their personalities, and the fond memories that this patient had created. A few tears were shed because there was no more life to live, history to create, or legacy to leave behind. It was the end of a life that I never knew existed until I pronounced her death.

I often think of my own legacy. My children are my most precious legacy. I want a universal future with them, my loving husband, and even my beloved Sheba-dog who seemed to share a spiritual journey with me. My awesome sister who has differing spiritual beliefs from my own. How will we all "meet' in the spiritual universe?

While I cannot answer those questions, I can create a heritage that returns the good and remembers the power and strength of love.

I want a legacy that leaves behind the unequivocal love of a mother, the enduring faithfulness of a friend, the consummate virtue of a loving relationship, the intense, powerful, energy of a positive life, and the unconquerable depth of true love.

My experience has shown that at the very end of life, most do not ask for someone to hold their hand. A peacefulness exists - and the heartbeat stops as unobtrusively as it began.

We hold their hand for our comfort. We cling and beseech then not to leave. We reach out for answers. Is this really all there is to life? We grieve, console, weep, and morn.

A heartbeat stops. Another begins.

Registered Nurse near Denver, CO, Linda enjoys writing, photography, and coupon shopping. She hosts several personal blogs and has published a book about her life. I am an LPN with 40 years of experience. In terms of specialties, I've done it all!!!

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12 Comment(s)

Silverdragon102, BSN

Specializes in Medical and general practice now LTC. Has 33 years experience.

Thank you, I enjoyed reading this article

Sandwitch883RN

Specializes in Labor & Delivery. Has 10 years experience.

So very beautiful....thank you :flwrhrts:

bkleriRN

Specializes in MRDD, HOME HEALTH AND MOST RECENTLY MEDS. Has 9 years experience.

Thanks for sharing,very sweet, have few tears in my eyes!!

cherryames1949

Specializes in Oncology&Homecare. Has 27 years experience.

Our job takes us a close as we can get to the final experience people have on this earth. We are privileged to be with them and their families. It is a gift to us in all the ways you have beautifully enumerated in your article. If we are really lucky it changes our lives for the better. Knowledge is power. Thank you for putting it into words. :heartbeat

It is sad that some people do not believe in going to be with Jesus after they die. What do they live for?!! Of course, it is every person's own opinions. But if we do not go to heaven, is there even a God?

nursemarion, BSN

Has 36 years experience.

All these issues haunt many of us. We want to believe, yet we do not know. We see so much death in this work, yet we see no spirit rise from the body, no proof that there is anything beyond. It is hard. We all have to settle these questions in our own hearts and minds in our own way. I know there is a spirit- I have had experiences that have convinced me of it, but what happens to that spirit after life has ended as we know it? I agree that no matter what your belief we need to do our best to make the world a better place in our time here, and try to celebrate life. Very well said and very moving.

It's important to remember that many people do not believe in the afterlife. So you need to keep your answers to the families as generic as possible.

What a stunning piece of writing. You must must must develop this incredible talent.

GHGoonette, BSN, RN

Specializes in PACU, OR.

I'm sitting here wondering what I am to say to such an amazing article, but more importantly, to the questions it raises.

I have never had any problems with fears regarding the afterlife, because I know there is one. Don't ask me how I know, I can't answer you, but it is a conviction so strong that I can only assume it comes from the power that created us all.

You and I live on opposite sides of the planet, and will probably only meet in that afterlife. For me, it will be a singular honour to meet you.

All these issues haunt many of us. We want to believe, yet we do not know. We see so much death in this work, yet we see no spirit rise from the body, no proof that there is anything beyond. It is hard. We all have to settle these questions in our own hearts and minds in our own way. I know there is a spirit- I have had experiences that have convinced me of it, but what happens to that spirit after life has ended as we know it? I agree that no matter what your belief we need to do our best to make the world a better place in our time here, and try to celebrate life. Very well said and very moving.

Can you share some of the experiences you refer to?

I once read that some nurses or famiy who were with the dying person at the moment of death can tell that the spirita leaves the body. Some have seen something, or heard something, or saw/felt some type of movement maybe or felt air moving.

Scripture says that each of us is a spirit, living in a body, and having a soul. Some believe spirit and soul are the same thing.

Butterfliesnroses

Specializes in LTC.

I've been the nurse on shift to listen for a heartbeat 4 times in 2 months. I work in LTC. I've been present many times, more times than I can count in the 6 years I was a CNA. I really didn't think about it too much and just did the post-mortem care that was typical. I was definitely sad for the resident and would often wonder about their fate. This was especially true of one particular man who admitted to worshipping the devil. With most of the residents I would feel a sense of warmth, however w/this man I felt coldness. He was a nice enough man and I took care of him w/great care like any other resident.

I'm a Lutheran and believe in heaven and of course hell for the unsaved. However my beliefs have changed as far as who is worthy. This change happened my 2nd qtr of nursing school. I was taking care of a homosexual man who had AIDS, he was around my age. He told me he wasn't scared to die b/c he knew where he was going. That day I thought long and hard about this man. B/c in the Lutheran religion since he chose the life of a homosexual that meant that he was doomed for hell unless he repented. However I knew in my heart of hearts that he believed in Jesus as his savior and he had a genuine beautiful heart.

It's not my place to judge and I don't judge them though I do worry and wonder about their fate.

Anyways as I was saying now when I listen for that heart-beat knowing it's not going to be there I often pray for them silenty, wish that they had peace....I don't know I can't even explain the process, but it's such a different thinking process than what I had as a CNA and I can't help but wonder why? What's different?

nursemarion, BSN

Has 36 years experience.

Can you share some of the experiences you refer to?

I once read that some nurses or famiy who were with the dying person at the moment of death can tell that the spirita leaves the body. Some have seen something, or heard something, or saw/felt some type of movement maybe or felt air moving.

Scripture says that each of us is a spirit, living in a body, and having a soul. Some believe spirit and soul are the same thing.

Sadly, no, I don't think I could ever tell anyone about it for several reasons. First of all there are no words to describe it adequately, second people would not understand unless it happened to them, and third I would be afraid that people would say I was, well, perhaps a bit mad??? I have never even told my husband. Some things are for us alone.

Let me just say that it happened to me twice, enough of an unusual experience to convince me that there is a spirit that exists separately from the flesh and blood of our bodies, but whether it continues to exist after death I do not know. Science tells us that energy can neither be created nor destroyed, it can only change forms. Where does it go after we die?