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.