Momma, Who Are Those Children In My Room?


I had always wanted to work with pediatric oncology kids but when actually faced with the opportunity I was very hesitant. What if I messed something up? What if I wasn't able to give the parents and child the support and answers they needed? Despite all of my fears, I went through the oncology certification course.

Momma, Who Are Those Children In My Room?

I began my orientation with other, more experienced nurses. After a few weeks, I was on my own. Once I became familiar with the chemotherapy, protocols, diseases, and families I came to love working with oncology patients. They are an amazing group of families. So strong with beautiful spirits. Of course, Murphy's Law is a cruel reminder that we've become too comfortable with our environment and once again I was thrust into the unknown.

I will never forget the first time I met Mary (name changed). She was 17 years old. She had a brain tumor that had come back 4 times over her lifetime. By now she was blind because the tumor was pressing on her ocular nerves. Mary was the 2nd oldest of 5 girls.

What a wonderful family they were.

So kind but scared of Mary's impending death.

You see, Mary was in the hospital to die. Mary's tumor was inoperable and did not respond to treatment. The family held a meeting and it was decided, by Mary's sisters, that they weren't comfortable with her dying at home. I, too, was uncomfortable.

I had never taken care of someone on hospice.

What if I didn't have the right answers?

What if watching someone die was so scary and horrible that I couldn't face being a nurse anymore?

Over the next few weeks, I took care of Mary and grew very fond of her and her family. One afternoon I walked into Mary's room to do my assessment. Her mom pulled me aside and told me that Mary had started "seeing things."

I asked what kind of things was she seeing, thinking that perhaps she was having hallucinations from the narcotics that she was receiving.

Mary's mom proceeded to tell me that Mary had asked her "who are those children in here?

Don't you see them, momma?"

Mary's mom didn't see anyone else in the room. In the weeks preceding Mary's death, she had more frequent interactions with the children in her room. One morning, it was reported that Mary told her mom "tell that man to go away! I'm not ready to leave yet!"

It was then, that we realized Mary was seeing angels and Jesus. What an amazing gift for someone to experience before their death. I took care of Mary the night of her death. She was frightened. She was afraid that dying would hurt. She was scared to leave her parents and sisters. Her mom climbed into bed with her.

Lying next to her she told Mary "it's okay Mary. Go with the angels now. We love you so much. Don't be scared."

It was the most heart-wrenching scene I have ever witnessed.

Mary did go with the angels shortly after that. I feel incredibly privileged to have experienced Mary and her family and their journey to her death. What I once viewed as a scary life event I now view as one that can be peaceful and joyous with angels and Jesus coming to take you to heaven where there is no pain.

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48 Comment(s)


Specializes in Med/Surg, ICU, educator. 985 Posts

I wish everyone could go that peacefully. Maybe then so many would not be afraid to let go, or let their loved ones go.

Wow...such a touching story. I am very interested in the pallitive care part of nursing and enjoyed your article very much. Thank you!


5 Posts

hmm... ^^ not to offend you... but im curious...

what brings you to the conclusion that it is the angels and Jesus that the girl saw and not ghosts.... XD


Specializes in Obs & gynae theatres. 144 Posts

hmm... ^^ not to offend you... but im curious...

what brings you to the conclusion that it is the angels and Jesus that the girl saw and not ghosts.... XD

Ghosts are just as unlikely as Jesus and angels imo.

Still a lovely story though.

nursejoy1, ASN, RN

Specializes in Geriatrics. Has 22 years experience. 1 Article; 213 Posts

My neice Macy Nicole died at the age of 15 weeks of SIDS. Her brother, 2 at the time, witnessesd the attempts to revive her and later told us ( when he had the language skills) " one day a big beautiful angel lady came and put wings on Macy Cole's back and they flewed away. That iswhy I believe it was angels and Jesus.

Edited by nursejoy1

tewdles, RN

Specializes in PICU, NICU, L&D, Public Health, Hospice. Has 31 years experience. 3,156 Posts

Ghosts are just as unlikely as Jesus and angels imo.

Still a lovely story though.

The identification of those present at death is certainly up for debate...since most of us have not actually seen them for ourselves. However, I have had children freak out the adults in the room of dying patients by identifying "angels" in varying sizes and forms. I have had dying adults identify angels in the room when they were able to speak. While dying people do often see loved ones who have preceeded them in death, I would not classify them as ghosts, primarily because the concept of ghosts is that of a disembodied spirit that is wandering among us, haunting if you will. Also, "ghosts" are generally considered sort of "creepy" even scary and the dying person's experience with these "visions" is comforting and pleasant if anything. The faith of the dying person clearly affects their experience and their interpretation of the process. The atheist will not likely identify angels but may describe individuals that another may believe are angels. The faith of observer colors their interpretation of the events as well. I took care of an elderly gentleman once who was an adamant atheist. In the days preceeding his death he spoke to me on a number of occasions of a very tall, very handsome young man who stayed with him. He described him as having the most beautiful blue eyes and smile he had ever seen. He said that he didn't know who he was but that he was glad that he was there. I believe he was visited by an angel although I never spoke that to him. As hospice professionals, it is important that we do not transfer our belief systems to the patients or their families. While I may believe in Jesus and angels, many of my patients and families may not. Conversely, it is important that the professional who is agnostic or atheist fully respect the beliefs of the patient and family and not dismiss these experiences as hallucenations or something abnormal which much be treated or suppressed.

So, in response to your comment, I would suggest that ghosts are just as LIKELY as (Jesus and) angels rather than as unlikely.

carolinapooh, BSN, RN

Has 10 years experience. 3,577 Posts

I have had many dying patients describe seeing people - and whatever one's beliefs, I find it comforting to know that we may not be alone when we die.

My great-grandmother apparently saw her late husband - in fact, my grandmother very distinctly heard Florence (my g-grandmother) say out loud TO AN EMPTY ROOM about a week before she died: "No, Jack, not now - the girls still need me." And Florence was still pretty much in her right mind, if you will.

My grandmother, who also went blind, used to tell my mother she saw a little boy in her room starting about a week before she died. She'd talk to him and tell my mother about him. My grandmother loved children - and they loved her. I've often wondered who the little boy was.

On a rather scary note, one night last year when I was at work (and this is a very true story!) we were having a heck of a thunderstorm here in Durham. RIGHT AS A BOLT OF LIGHTNING FLASHED, a dying woman in one of our rooms screamed the most bloodcurdling scream I'd ever heard - and died just a few moments later, about the time we all got to her room after hauling a** down the hallway.

To further the whole thing, we'd been told she wasn't the most charming woman to be around before she got cancer.

I don't even want to BEGIN to speculate what THAT scream was about or what she may or may not have seen, I just hope to the Good Lord or WHOEVER'S in charge that that's not what happens to me.

It was enough to just make you want to drop down and beg for forgiveness for whatever infractions you'd ever committed - and I swear to you I'm not making this story up. We were all jumpy for the rest of the shift and couldn't talk about it until the next morning.

On a more pleasant note (just have a box of Kleenex ready) may I recommend the book FINAL GIFTS, written by two hospice nurses.

Edited by carolinapooh

Nurse SMS, MSN, RN

Specializes in Critical Care; Cardiac; Professional Development. Has 11 years experience. 2 Articles; 6,837 Posts

When my son (age 13) was dying after an allo BMT for relapsed AML, the nurses told me stories of dying children who often saw other children coming to get them to play just prior to their deaths. One child was begging his mother to let him go play with them and she was having trouble letting go, so she told him no. Finally one morning when the little boy was weeping because he wanted to go play so badly, she kissed him, held him and gently told him through her tears that yes, he could go play. He died within the hour.

It comforted me a great deal when my son was dying (he was on an oscillator and could not speak or move of course) that children might come to get him. He'd been through so much. I loved to imagine he might be crossing over to a place of light and good health.

Thank you for sharing your story.


Specializes in interested in NICU!!. 400 Posts

if 'mary' wasn't scared there's no room to think it was a ghost imo

PhoenixTech, LPN

Specializes in Float. Has 3 years experience. 279 Posts

if 'mary' wasn't scared there's no room to think it was a ghost imo

not necessarily 'ghosts' as opposed to 'spirits'. it also occurred to me why the op would presume that. i'm not trying to be offensive. did the family conclude that it was angels and jesus or was it just your belief that it was?

in any event tewdles summed it up perfectly :p


6 Posts

I think we can all say these experiences are maybe our minds way of dealing with are final hours on earth. Maybe it is the minds way of compforting us taking the things that we hold most precious, or something we want so bad. No matter what we believe we can all say people dying do see there loved ones who have already passed away. Yes, I do believe in God, ghosts and that the power of the mind is beyond our undersanding.

"Those that care for others will find an award in heaven."