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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Breathe (08/19/10)

TITLE: The Hospice
By Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom


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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This article has been read 870 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Theresa Santy 08/26/10
The title of this one caught my attention, since I recently spent several days in hospice visiting my Aunt. It's a whole new world in there!

Sharing the acceptance and experience of death with another person can be both emotionally exhausting and a glorious gift.

I liked this story and you wrote it well. The message was spot on.

In the paragraph beginning with "after a few hours" I think the name Sharon was used instead of Julie, which was a bit confusing.

But I passed that and thoroughly enjoyed this piece. :)
Sarah Heywood08/26/10
This story brought tears to my eyes - so beautiful! You did well with a difficult subject. It's masterful writing when one can show the reader the beauty in something that naturally repels us. Excellent!
Patsy Hallum08/27/10
I really like this story. Well written piece about our hospice services and how important it is for no one to die alone. Keep writing!
AnneRene' Capp08/29/10
I absolutely love this. I was so very, very touched at Julie giving in and being what Arla needed...Sharon. What a charming, true to life story that gave me almost as much peace as Arla felt in going home! :)
stanley Bednarz08/29/10
Well told story with a grreat message
Cheryl Harrison08/30/10
I go goose bums when I read this part: "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."

Your description put me in the hospital room. I saw Arla and Julie clearly.

Reminded me of the night I spent with my Grandmother right before she passed.

Thanks for this.
Terri Schroeder08/30/10
You did a wonderful job on this story. I felt as if I were in the hospice room myself!
Genia Gilbert08/30/10
I really really like this. Good job with a difficult subject. I felt like I was really there.
Genia Gilbert08/30/10
For a writer wannabe, I really used really too many times. lol Need to wake up and get into Monday. Anyway, you did a great job on this piece.
Gregory Kane08/30/10
You did well with such a personal and deeply emotional storyline. If anything I felt that your story got off to a slow start and that you could have done with a punchier hook. Your opening set the time and place but perhaps not the mood. That said, judging by your many comments, you have obviously struck a chord with a lot of people
Virgil Youngblood 08/30/10
Trained hospice workers provide a wonderful service to families in need. And, as you have shown, there are rewards that money can't buy for those involved in this ministry.
Caitlyn Meissner08/30/10
This reminds me of when Corrie ten Boom saw her sister Betsie's body transfigured when she died. Thank you for this story.
Sarah Elisabeth 08/31/10
Through this entire piece, I kept visualizing those last days in the hospital with my Papaw. Thanks for bringing more peace and healing!
Hanne Moon 09/01/10
Your story shows a wonderful ministry opportunity we have as Christians to comfort people up to the very end, to soothe them as they transition from this world to the next. You did a nice job with this. Except for a few run-on sentences, this one is spot on for the challenge.
Mona Purvis09/01/10
Shann, I can imagine how hard this might have been for you to recall and share. The emotion is strong from start to finish. The best part is finishing a race with Jesus at the Finish Line.

Joan Campbell09/01/10
Yay - finally I got to read your story! It was beautiful, Shann. My very favourite line was: "That glow is the light of heaven spilling over on her face." What wonderful, poetic language!
Amanda Brogan09/01/10
I liked the part about the light of heaven spilling onto her face too. Death may be a bitter experience, but what comes next for the believer is sweeter than anything we could ever have known before!
Carol Penhorwood 09/01/10
This hit so close to home for me as I sat with my mother her last weeks in hospice and was there when she passed. The hospice ministry is one blessed by God to help the dying and the family as well.
Edmond Ng 09/02/10
A moving story well written and expressed. Great piece of work!