She's Got a Ticket
One of the most eye opening books I have read regarding Hospice issues, is "Final Gifts" written by two hospice nurses, Maggie Callanan and Patricia Kelley. It speaks of the language of the dying, and relates their experiences as hospice nurses, identifying the needs that each patient had in order to completely let go. Without having the years of experience, and paying attention to the different signs, we would all miss out on the messages that our loved ones are trying to share with us, and thus, we miss out on the sacred experiences that are being acted out in front of us.
Recently, I had a patient who was in her 90's. "Elizabeth" was originally from Chicago area, but had lived in Southern California with her family for years. Her sister was still living in the Chicago area, being taken care of by her son. Both Elizabeth and her sister were in the last stages of their lives. One morning, Elizabeth related to her daughter that she needed to go get her sister, in order to go ice skating, but she needed to get the ticket to go. Her daughter thought little about that comment until she spoke with her cousin, and relayed that story to him. He told Elizabeth's daughter that his mother had said the same thing, just days before, except that she needed to go get her sister Elizabeth. Both were communicating the need to go on a trip, needing the other one, and needing a ticket to go.
Only a few weeks later, as Elizabeth began her transitioning phase, her daughter went and got some tickets. She placed them in her mom's hand and said, "Mom, you have your tickets now, it's ok for you to go." Elizabeth passed away just minutes later. To my knowledge, her sister is still waiting to go on her trip. My hope for her is that she will have her ticket in her hands soon.
I have personally witnessed many times in my time as a hospice spiritual care counselor, is our patients who call out the names of those in their family who have gone before them. Although no one else in the room may see them, the dying person certainly does. I have experienced it in my own family as well. It gives me great comfort to know, that even though our loved ones are leaving us, that they are often met and escorted by their spouses, siblings, parents, grandparents, or others of significance. It doesn't seem as lonely a journey to die, knowing they are held on this side of life as well as the next.