Print this page

Observations placeholder

There was real recognition and gratitude in his look

Identifier

021135

Type of spiritual experience

A description of the experience

Love is the Link – Dr Pamela Kircher

One afternoon a very elderly man with end-stage dementia was brought to the inpatient unit with a severe infection that had been unresponsive to antibiotics. As I examined him, it became clear that he was actively dying and we called in his family.

While we waited for the family to arrive, a nurse and I sat with him. I gave him oxygen and medicine to help with his breathing. As I looked at his face, I recognized the all-too-common look of the person who is completely demented. At that stage of the dementia, people have a wild, frightened look in their eyes; my experience has been that they do not recognize anyone, but are frightened of everything as they have become prisoners of their own minds.

That afternoon was rather quiet for me, and I decided to stay with him until his family arrived or until he died, whichever occurred first. Standing next to him, I began breathing in synch with his breathing while thinking peaceful thoughts. There was no activity, just our quiet breathing together. Slowly, his breathing began to relax and I could tell that he was slipping away.

I had been touching his shoulder gently to maintain human contact, but then I gently removed my hand and stepped away from the bed about six inches. After a few more breaths which became successively slower and shallower, he suddenly opened his eyes and looked fully into my eyes. It felt to me that there was real recognition and gratitude in his look. He took one more breath and died peacefully.

That was a very important learning experience for me. I had always assumed that someone that demented would not be able to have any more human contact in this lifetime. It really amazed me to be so sure that he had really seen me in that last breath.

The source of the experience

Ordinary person

Concepts and Symbols used in the text or image

Activities

Observation contributed by: Rosie Rock-Evans