I volunteer for a Hospice in my area.
As a hospice vigil volunteer, we go into the home or nursing facility during the night hours to relieve the family. They get much needed rest while their family member is imminently dying.
Getting a call for a vigil assignment, I’m given the patient’s name, the facility they are in, and room number. I drive up with prayer and an uneasy stomach, anytime between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m., depending on what is needed and availability of other volunteers. In most cases, you come into a dim room, with a completely unconscious person and settle in for the night. Hospice teaches us to simply be a caring presence.
When I walk into a vigil, it is hallowed ground. I imagine it like walking into a different dimension. The threshold of the door resembles a dividing line. The room seems to become the space between death and life. Death is knocking and could happen at the end of any breath. Where they go at the end of their allotted breaths is the place where only souls can go.
Last night I did a vigil with a man. I sang “Great is thy Faithfulness,” recited the 23rd Psalm to him, spoke words of hope and comfort. I truly believe that they can hear me. I told him that Jesus was waiting for him with open arms, it was okay to go, how the pearly gates would be so beautiful. I spoke all this to him and more, although I have no idea if he was a believer, as his surroundings gave me no clues this time. The only thing in his room was one folded up quilt on his table. The man had steady breaths until at one point, he swallowed strangely three times, the breathing became uneven, and then he didn’t inhale. I watched his carotid artery. It beat fast, then twitched a few times, and slowed to nothing. As I pushed the nurses’ red button, I held his hand, laid my hand on his forehead, and tenderly checked his breathing. Could this really be it? The only other person I have actually witnessed die was my step mother Pauline. I had only spent one hour with this man and felt a strong connection to him.
On the lonely drive home, I was reminded that this was Good Friday. This man had died on the same “day” as Jesus did. The moon was almost full and shining brightly.
Psalm 90:12 says, “Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom.” (NLT)
On this day long ago, Jesus’ Last Supper with His beloved friends was finished. He had done signs, wonders, taught, cried, loved, prophesied and prayed for three years. He was betrayed by one of his own disciples. Some of them ran away or denied Him. Jesus went to the garden to pray again and was arrested, had a false trial and was sentenced to die on a cross. He carried His cross to Calvary. He died so I might live. He was the perfect atonement for my sin.
On Easter Sunday morning, He rose from the grave and appeared to many people in the next 40 days. He ascended into heaven and rules with His Father. He left us the Holy Spirit to be our comforter, guide and counselor. He is coming back someday soon. I pray that you are ready. The man I was with last night may have decided to believe in Jesus when he was living. I want you to imagine right now what pictures you see when you read this story. You do not know when your last second could be whether you’re old or young. None of us know the day or the hour. If you feel nervous or afraid, please talk to me, a trusted believing friend, or a pastor. Make sure you know-what do you feel in your gut? What do you see when you close your eyes and think about crossing over to eternal life? Any of us can pass over to the other side at any moment and we must be ready. I feel peace and assurance when I imagine Jesus welcoming me into heaven. I want you to have the blessed assurance that Jesus is yours. It is only by HIS GRACE and SACRIFICE.
Hebrews 7:27b states, “He sacrificed for their sins ONCE FOR ALL, when he offered himself.” (NIV-emphasis mine)