The Honor of Being with the Dying

EHCC – Sermon by Gerri Harrington on July 14, 2019

Scripture: Psalm 147:1-3


It’s a beautiful thing to see the spirit in others. It’s wonderful to be part of it. Such a humble honor…


As many of you know, I have been a nurse for a very long time.  Sometimes YOUR nurse.  There have been many advances in the medical field over the last 40 years, and of course more to come.  Our bodies are complex, and healing not only involves our physical body but our mind, attitude, emotions, our diet and our spirituality….


We all know what stress can do.  Cold sores should be called stress sores.  Headaches could be called tension trauma.  If we nurses just cared for the body we’d miss a very important part of healing.


Doctors talk. Nurses listen.  That means doctors talk to the patients and nurses listen to the patients.  I’ve seen many stages of illness.  I’ve shared a patient’s hopes and concerns, their fears and their JOYOUS recoveries. We’ve laughed together, and cried together.  I’ve listened to them find their next strategy on how they were going to cope.

I’ve listened.


Have you ever noticed the little box on an admission form where the hospital wants you to check your religious preference? If you do NOT check any affiliation, does that mean you are not spiritual? Would you not get any spiritual support?  You may need it.


Perhaps you’ll get it from your nurse, and maybe not.  It is an uncomfortable area for a lot of nurses.  It requires time – being emotionally present and mindfully available, focusing on only that one patient and what they need….Their need of something they can’t place, or hold or see or explain.

Something beyond themselves.

Something unknown.

They’re exploring – broadening their search to find and answer.  And I listen.


The box for religious preference is easily understood.  Religion has a set creed, a structure. You belong to people with the same beliefs. And you know they will be there for you.  There is a box missing on the admission form: Spirituality – without the association of a particular religion – is just as important.  They have similar needs, spiritual needs.  They need the healing power of the holy spirit.


Spirituality  transcends conscious constraints and allows one to connect to a higher power.  It gives us hope….comfort….. and you know you are NOT alone.  It helps us find meaning and guides us to the purpose of our life.


Ohh – that vague, over whelming power that surrounds you…. the holy spirit. We can all breath it in.  It’s a gift we are given.  And we ask where in the world is God?  He is right here in all of us.


As the end of life is approaching, finding that faith, whatever it may be, becomes increasingly more important.  I’m going to tell you about my personal experience where I’ve seen God’s presence.


I’ve seen a number of deaths and I’ve never NOT felt the presence of God during the process of dying. Use your imagination and follow me with this scenario.  Lower the lights, close your eyes and feel the presence of the spirit within us.


The agony for the patient and family may be days…weeks….or longer, but this is about the moments before death.  Now is when you stop and wait…

A change occurs…

Their mind steps toward an opening door – a tunnel of light – a space – a dimension beyond, whatever.

You can see that they are tempted….there is a mark of curiosity on their face.

Then resistance….

Something draws them back….


They refocus and power out a little more of life.  Trying to stay in the zone they had known for so long.

Caught between two worlds….resisting…..conflicted, desperate to stay in the known, or….let go – to the comfort of peace, and go with the globe of the holy spirit that surrounds them.

They quickly review their life here on Earth….their responsibility….their loved ones and the worries of their future.  The loss of what they have had, the love of individuals that they can’t imagine living without….all they have experienced and known – the very definition of who they are.


They refocus and power through a little more of life with determination to hold on. But the fatigue of remaining is too much. There is no more energy.


It’s like their frontal cortex is glowing. The spirit within them takes charge over all they have known. PEACE….PEACE arrives.

It’s bigger than life….

Beyond our own imagination.

An unknown that is not frightening….but safe…peaceful.

You can see it on their face…and feel it around them. The peace of death.

Their infinite grain of energy flows into the unknown future.


If you get the opportunity, WATCH –  behold – the little spark of energy and the great aura of the holy spirit…as long as you can.  Send blessings. Hold it.

Etch that remarkable moment in your memory. It’s such a privilege…. an honor to be present in that intimate transformation.


That memory will help pull you through all the grief you have to bear.

That memory will transform you.


And He walks with me and He talks with me,

And He tells me I am his own.

And the love we share, as we tarry there,

None other has ever known.


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