Written By Susan Randall, USA
As I walked the streets of Baltimore, USA, I saw many addicts and homeless people. One of them, an elderly man with his belongings all around him, was sitting in a wheelchair and only his face was visible between all his bulky clothes. Another man was walking with his tongue hanging out; many of them appeared to be mentally ill.
Working in a hospice as a hospice nurse gives me a greater understanding of the importance of loving everyone. I try to practice what it says in Matthew 12:31, “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” This is especially needful since I’m sent into the homes of people I have never met, and I need to care for them along with their personal issues.
These homeless people were on my mind as I visited Mia, a cancer patient who also has paranoid schizophrenia. Someone had arranged for her to get off the streets and into a home with a caregiver. The cancer had come through her skin and was painful, but being paranoid, she refused to take her medicine. She thought that everyone was trying to kill her, including me. When the caregiver tried to help Mia walk the night before, she accidently touched the tumors. It caused her such excruciating pain that Mia called the police to have the caregiver evicted. Instead of evicting the woman, the police insisted that Mia take her medicine for schizophrenia. They threatened to take her to a psychiatric unit if she did not comply. She didn’t trust the police as they gave her pills to her, saying they were trying to kill her too.
Even though she wouldn’t take the pain pills, she asked me to put a topical Morphine cream on the exposed cancer tumors. She told me to be gentle because they hurt. When I touched the tumors with the cream, she started slamming her fists on the bed and cried out in pain until the cream began to take effect.
She didn’t trust the caregiver, didn’t trust the police, and didn’t trust me for trying to give her medicine. She said a friend took one of those pills and it killed him. I found it hard to watch her suffering; I knew the effects of the morphine cream wasn’t going to last very long.
The only way I realized I could truly help her was to pray. A prayer in my favorite devotional that morning read, “Dear God, help us to set our sights on the prize of eternal life so that we may endure and even overcome our struggles. Amen.” I included Mia in my prayers, knowing that the eternal life in heaven would be a welcome prize for her—a place where she would no longer experience any pain or suffering.
The next night, I visited a 50-year-old woman who had fluid in her abdomen which caused her discomfort. I hooked up the tube to drain the fluid and we sat on the sofa together. We sat in silence, waiting for her to get relief. The television was turned on in the background with a scene of a son talking to his dying father. The son said, “It will be cold and scary, but just swim hard to Jesus.”
I didn’t like what the son was saying. I was sitting beside a woman who was going to die soon. I couldn’t let her hear those words without responding. “I don’t think it’s going to be like that at all. I believe death will be peaceful.” She looked down at her diseased-filled body and with a smile replied, “I think it is going to be wonderful!”
Her liver was full of cancer and the fluid had been resting on it and other internal organs. Her pain was so bad, it required a pump for narcotics. I couldn’t imagine how awful it must be to live with cancer. Her words made me realize that she was looking forward to that wonderful place called “heaven”.
The third night of that same week, I went to visit a hospice patient, Ella, to help with her symptoms that were getting out of control. After my intervention, she fell asleep comfortably. Her son and daughter-in-law, John and Betty, sat with me in the room with Ella. They described how just a few months ago, she was dancing at a family gathering—the life of the party. Seeing her this way was difficult. For two hours John and Betty told me stories about the whole family. Occasionally, John cried when he looked over at his mother and Betty put her hand on his shoulder to comfort him, but with all their family problems, there was so much stress that they got into an argument. John walked out of the house.
About that time, Ella’s breathing changed. I told Betty it was getting close. She sent a text to John telling him to come back, his mother was going to pass away very soon. He came back and stood beside Ella’s bed. She was alive but her breathing had decreased. When John looked at her, he started crying and ran out of the room; it was too difficult for him. Betty sat on the sofa unable to come to the bedside.
I stood beside Ella’s bed with one hand on her hand and my other hand stroking her forehead. I told her it was okay to go. She took one deep breath and passed away; her spirit lifting from her physical body. I felt so close to something divine, like God had just taken her out of my hands into His own to join others in heaven. The memory of this still brings tears to my eyes.
Some people think I have a dreadful job, but I think of it differently. It is a privilege to be side-by-side, or even hand-in-hand, with a God that is so vast. I’m reminded of John 14:2-3 which says, “In My Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”
This gives me hope, that in spite of our present sufferings we can persevere, knowing that one day we will all end up in that wonderful place called heaven.
“My home is heaven. I’m just traveling through this world.” – Billy Graham