I’m a skeptic by nature. Anyone who knows me would agree. I mostly believe things that can be proven.
I don’t believe in ghosts. I’ve never had a “psychic” experience…except for maybe when the phone rings and I sometimes know who it it is- but doesn’t that happen to everyone? As a nurse, I have seen patients die and comforted families…but until a few days ago, I had never heard of a shared death experience, much less had one.
My Shared Death Experience
My story starts when my daughter, Jessica, called from her home on the coast where she lives with her husband and three children.
“Mom- we’re driving up and we’ll be there Saturday afternoon. Just me and the girls. Don and Tommy are doing a guy trip to Catalina.”
“Driving inland in this heat, honey? We’d love to see you and the girls but it’s going to be 104 here. Why this weekend?”
“I don’t know. I just got up and had this feeling I should. See you soon.”
Jessica’s father and I had divorced a lifetime ago, when she was nine years old and her sister and brother were seven and five. It had not been a good marriage; it had not been an amicable divorce. I still recall the precise moment I knew the marriage had been a mistake and would not last. We had been married only three months at the time. It took almost nine years to get the courage to leave. It was me who left; he never really accepted the divorce.
I moved on, got my nursing degree (My Story) and eventually happily remarried. My ex, too, also remarried but never let go. He always wanted for us to get back together and he believed that someday we would. I did not have the same feelings, and we had not spoken for years, if not a decade or more.
For several months now he had been in a wheelchair and dementia was setting in. Now, only in his sixties, he was aged and ill beyond his years, and in a nursing home.
The Nursing Home
On the way into town, Jessica stopped at the nursing home to visit. They walked in his room, the girls called out “Hi, Grandpa!” and then they all froze. He was unresponsive.
Shocked, Jessica called a nursing assistant who came in and registered surprise.
“Really? But he was awake for breakfast and lunch. I sat here earlier and I gave him Cheetos. He loves Cheetos.” She pointed to his fingertips which were dusty orange with Cheetos powder to prove her point.
But now it was clear to her and everyone he was completely unresponsive. Suddenly the room got very busy. A nurse entered
the room, wheeling in a blood pressure machine. His blood pressure was checked and it was 75/45. His pulse was 133.
Within the hour a hospice nurse arrived and said that a form must be filled out, a DNR. Jessica protested “But he’s already a DNR. I signed this form in the hospital, and I’m his power of attorney.”
“I’m sure you did, and I’m sorry, I don’t know what happened, but you need to sign it now or we’ll have to call an ambulance and transport him to the hospital”.
That evening I explained to the kids that it sounded very serious, it could be sepsis, there was no way to know. The bacteria load reaches a tipping point and the organs shut down. By the time there is a change in level of consciousness, it’s severe sepsis.
I said “If you want to say good bye to your Dad, this is the time.”
They went back to the nursing home where his blood pressure was now 60/35 and spent time with their Dad, who remained unresponsive.
Finally everyone came back home and went to bed after making a plan for the next day. I decided I’d take the girls to the movies. They had said their good-byes, and Jessica would then be free to stay at the bedside.
The Next Morning
On waking up, everyone checked their phones, surprised we had all slept through the night without a call. After breakfast, Jessica went back to the nursing home. She reported he was hanging on, but why, I wondered? And how? Each breath seemed like his last.
As planned, the girls and I went to the movies.
At the Movies
The movie was a perfect choice, an action film with a teen heart-throb star and a romantic sub plot. It had its desired effect- escape from reality. But halfway through the movie, I had a distracting impression “Something’s happening. His condition is changing. He’s going.”
I pushed the thought away as imagination, but it stayed and was hard to ignore, like when my dog stares at me silently with his big eyes. I was being asked to do something, and in my spirit, I hesitated, but then said yes.
I closed my eyes and time and space changed. I was with him in this new space, the movie screen and sounds completely gone.
He was wrapped like a mummy, with only his head uncovered. His features were not clear, like an image in an old mirror and with a sepia filter. The outer layers of fabric around his form were loose and flowing, a linen-like material but more flowy. It had no end- the fabric just merged into the dark background space around him.
He was moving upwards to the light above his head. I looked at it. A beautiful, diffuse light that was more than light-it was a place, a space, an energy. It was freedom and release and forgiveness and acceptance. I was glimpsing eternity.
He was saying “I have to go. I can’t hang on” not in voice or words but clearly and to me. More clear than voice or words, a knowing.
Then I understood I was there to help him pass. He had to go and somehow I was part of it. My spirit surged and I sent my energy to help propel his spirit upwards. To pass. “It’s good, yes, go. Go in peace”.
It was the most profound, indescribable and most peaceful feeling I have ever, ever experienced .
Then it was over.
The movie came back, the smell of popcorn and the noise returned- the now very annoying, intrusive sounds of a scene with car squeals and gunshots.
Did this just happen? Had I imagined it all? Projected the vision? No one would believe me, and I wasn’t sure I believed it.
I needed to know the time. I reached inside my purse for my phone, shielding the light from my granddaughters on either side of me. It was 1:32. Time of death: 1:32. I pictured a doctor or trained nurse coming in soon to declare the time of death and knew they would be wrong. Because I knew. The time of death was 1:32.
I decided to text my daughter at the bedside. But what should I text?
“Your dad just died”? No.” Did your Dad just die?” No.
I texted simply “Weird feeling” to send out a feeler. Immediately her response came back “I think he just died”.
“I know” I texted back “I felt it”. Felt? What an insufficient word for what had just happened. I realized how hard this was going to be to tell anyone. It transcended words.
I looked again at the time. 1:34.
She texted me again: “I haven’t called the nurse yet. Don’t tell the kids.”
Later Jessica would share with me “He opened his eyes just before he died and his lips moved.” To which I thought, “Yes, I know. My eyes were opened as well.”
I was humbled that somehow I was included in his passing. Humbled because I was chosen (?) allowed? to witness his passing. To glimpse eternity as a mere mortal. It brought me to my spiritual knees.
I am less skeptical and not afraid of death. I want to share my story to help others who may have had similar experiences and I hope it gives comfort.
I Wish I Could Cry With You But I Can’t by Fresh RN Katie Kleber
“For now we see as in a mirror dimly but then we will shall see face to face”
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