Journal of Gerontological Nursing

Poetry 

Reflections on Death

Mary Teresa Morris, OSB, RN

Abstract

I have nursed for eight years. In that time, I have witnessed many deaths: rapid life escaping from the gunshot wound to the head, life creeping as the cancer grew from 'in situ' microcosm to vital organ invader. Some have been babies) ready to embark on the lifelong voyage. Some have been aged, coming into port wizened and tired by the voyage. Others have been every place in between.

They have died with dignity, with terror, with rage. Most likely, they died as they had lived. As a nurse, as a human being, I allowed them to "be." I tried to accept whatever their view of life was. Having not lived their lives, I could do nothing else.

I have dressed the wounds, wiped up the oozing life fluid, held the hand, rubbed the back, absorbed the anger, brought the coffee, cried with the husband, counted the respirations, checked the pupils, charted the course, prayed with and prayed for.

Death is so much like birth! I have attended both. I feel the same awe delivering a baby as holding the hand of the moribund. In the first instance, I am receiving a human being from the Infinite, in the other, I am witnessing the Infinite receiving the person back.

You - the dying - have taught me so much about life. In my mind is the quote of Jesus, "For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, that is the one will save it."

I hope that I have served you well and helped you to live until you have died. If I have, I have not failed you or my profession. As you have lost your life, my life has been enriched.…

I have nursed for eight years. In that time, I have witnessed many deaths: rapid life escaping from the gunshot wound to the head, life creeping as the cancer grew from 'in situ' microcosm to vital organ invader. Some have been babies) ready to embark on the lifelong voyage. Some have been aged, coming into port wizened and tired by the voyage. Others have been every place in between.

They have died with dignity, with terror, with rage. Most likely, they died as they had lived. As a nurse, as a human being, I allowed them to "be." I tried to accept whatever their view of life was. Having not lived their lives, I could do nothing else.

I have dressed the wounds, wiped up the oozing life fluid, held the hand, rubbed the back, absorbed the anger, brought the coffee, cried with the husband, counted the respirations, checked the pupils, charted the course, prayed with and prayed for.

Death is so much like birth! I have attended both. I feel the same awe delivering a baby as holding the hand of the moribund. In the first instance, I am receiving a human being from the Infinite, in the other, I am witnessing the Infinite receiving the person back.

You - the dying - have taught me so much about life. In my mind is the quote of Jesus, "For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, that is the one will save it."

I hope that I have served you well and helped you to live until you have died. If I have, I have not failed you or my profession. As you have lost your life, my life has been enriched.

10.3928/0098-9134-19810601-08

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