Jim walked his wife, Julie, out to the car. “Are you sure you want to keep volunteering? It seems like waiting for someone to die is too macabre.”
Julie kissed her husband. “It hasn’t been too bad yet, this is only my third time, but so far no one has died on my shift.”
Julie was greeted by the head nurse, Amy. “Hi Julie, I’m glad you came tonight. Arla is having a difficult time. Her family has been in and out taking turns, but they’re all exhausted. I was hoping you’d sit with her tonight, so her family can get some rest.”
Julie entered just as Arla’s granddaughter, Sharon, was leaving. Sharon grabbed Julie’s arm. “Grandma keeps asking for me. I know she’s pretty out of it right now, but if she does become more aware, please let her know I was here. I hate to think she’s calling for me and doesn’t realize I was here when she needed me. I’ll try to come back later.”
Julie gave Sharon a quick hug, “Don’t worry, she won’t be alone, I’m staying with her all night.”
Julie pulled a chair next to Arla’s bed. She offered her a sip of water and rearranged the blankets and pillows. Every once in a while Arla would call out. She seemed to drift in and out of consciousness, at one point she reached out and touched Julie’s arm. “Sharon,”
Julie interrupted her, “I’m Julie, one of the volunteers, Sharon was here earlier, but she had to leave.” Julie brushed the hair out of Arla’s face. She tried rubbing her arms, “Shush, it’s okay, you’re not alone.”
No matter what Julie tried, Arla insisted on calling her Sharon. Finally, Julie gave in and said. “I’m right here, Grandma.”
Arla’s eyes opened wide; she tried to sit up and pull Julie close to her. “Sharon, I’m so glad you’re here. I want to tell you about the beautiful vision I had. I was walking through a field of daisies. There were flowers everywhere. I was young and my body didn’t fail me. But the best thing of all was that the warmest, most beautiful Light was shining down on me. I know ever since your mom died, we’ve both missed her. We’ve helped each other through the grief. I’ve been holding on until you came in. I just wanted to tell you, Elaine is there waiting for me. She’s standing next to Jesus. It’s so wonderful.” Arla flopped back onto her pillow and dozed off again.
After a few hours, Arla started fidgeting. Sharon checked everything to make sure she was comfortable. “Arla, it’s okay, I’m here with you, try to fall back asleep.” Julie sighed, this was more difficult than she had imagined. Her other patients had been awake and oriented.
Julie heard a horrible noise; she jumped out of the chair. It sounded like a moan mixed with rattling. It was disconcerting. She checked on Arla, she noticed she was breathing rapidly. As she leaned in closer, she was shocked to hear that the rattling noise was coming from Arla’s chest. Julie’s heart started racing, she ran to the nurse’s desk. “Help, there’s something horribly wrong with Arla.”
Amy followed her back to the room. Now instead of breathing rapidly, Arla had stopped breathing entirely. Her lips were dusky; Julie frantically looked at the nurse for reassurance.Just then Arla gasped for air and the rattling came back. Amy patted Julie’s shoulder, “That’s called Cheyenne-Stokes breathing. It’s common when death is near.”
Julie felt hot tears running down her cheeks. "She must be in agony. Is there anything we can do?”
The nurse shook her head, “Don’t listen to the sound; instead look at Arla.” Julie gasped when she noticed there was a slight smile on Arla’s face. She leaned in closer and held her hand.
Julie blinked her eyes several times, “Do you see that? Her face is glowing, it reminds me of a blushing bride or that glow pregnant women have.”
The nurse nodded, “I’ve seen hundreds of people die, some fight it right to the end. The ones who have a strong relationship with Jesus have a sense of peace. That glow is the light of heaven spilling over on her face.”
With that, Arla took a few more long breaths and then stopped breathing. She had crossed over to heaven. She was at peace now and forevermore.
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