Hospice Story: “I Just Wanna Die”

I was called by the hospice team to visit a patient and his family late in the afternoon. They were upset. Staff wanted me to check in with them because their anxiety was high. The patient was in a hospice house. When I arrived and knocked on the door to the room about five or so people came rushing out, pushing me into the hallway.

They kept repeating the same message: their loved one wants to die. The group had a sense of panic about them. I told the group, “Please let me talk with him.” They quickly agreed and led me to his bedside. All the family were standing up near the head of the bed fidgeting and sighing, but not wanting to miss the moment. I introduced myself, and as soon as I stopped talking the man said, “I just wanna die. Please let me die.” 

What I said next surprised me because it came from so deep within. I said, “You are on your way, it’s happening right now. You can relax and just let yourself be carried. Use this precious time now to take in and ride this wave of love coming from your family.” The family went silent and still. It was as if there had been a thunderclap of truth that had stunned everyone.

I provided a few reassuring words of guidance and reassurance for them to share stories of their love with each other and to say their goodbyes, and then I left. He died that evening. The nurses reported later that the room changed after I left from tense worry to calmness.  

It’s amazing how much effort we can put into allowing our fear and denial to overrun our circuits. I never did know what religious beliefs or sense of spirituality this family had, but felt very confident they would claim some belief, maybe for the first time, now that the truth was laid bare.

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