The family had been called to Dad’s hospital room because he was very near death. The Chaplain was there to greet them all, keep the water pitcher full, and liase with the medical staff. Having determined that Psalm 23 was Dad’s favorite, each family member was asked to read it when they arrived. Dad thanked each of them. Then Dad got to talking. Talking lead to stories. Stories lead to teasing. Then came laughter. Soon Dad had raised the bed so he was sitting up. All got quiet with each reading of the Psalm. As family arrived, they got caught up in the joy of the time together.
As Dad brought up discussion of his transition, the Chaplain helped ease the family into the discussion. It was important to Dad to talk about it.
“Hey, Dad,” a daughter asked. “Who are you going to look for first when you get to Heaven?”
“Wally” Dad answered.
“Wally? The guy you used to play cards with in the old neighborhood? You haven’t seen him in years. Why Wally?”
“He owes me money” Dad replied as he broke into guffaws. “Of course, I’m not sure I’ll find him Up There!” More laughter.
At this point, the last son arrived, having left work and rushed across town, scared that he would miss saying goodbye. As he entered, the look of shock was plain on his face. He didn’t expect a party atmosphere. And Dad was the life of it, center stage. The son was warmly welcomed, and asked to take his turn reading. In the quiet all could hear the strain in his voice. After a round of Amens, the Son was caught up on all that had transpired, including tales of Wally. He still had a questioning look on his face. His sister addressed him.
“I know. But for now we’re just glad to have Dad with us.”
After dinner, Dad announced he was pretty tired. Everyone else felt the cost of days of anxiety, and the afternoon’s events, too. With each departure, Dad got hugs, kisses, professions of love, gratitude, praise, and assurance that all would be well. He told each person how much he loved them, was proud of them. Dad died peacefully in his sleep that night, a song in his heart, a smile on his face. His wife declared it her greatest gift.
Elsewhere, a woman opened her eyes after being non-responsive for days. She greeted the few gathered in her room. One of her children started speaking to her in strong tones.
“You fight, Mom, okay? We’re not going to give up, so don’t you, either. We’re going to do everything we can. The doctor says there are a couple things we’re going to try. You stay strong. Okay, Mom?”
But Mom had slipped away in the middle of the tirade.
On another occasion, a young mother lay in a fevered coma. Suddenly, she opened her eyes, and scanned those gathered until she met the eyes of her husband.
“Jessica? I love you, Jess” he said.
“Kids okay?” she asked weakly. She was assured they were fine, would be well cared for. “Love you, Mark.”
As Mark repeatedly professed his love, Jessica closed her eyes and breathed her last. At the time, the Chaplain was reading a Bible passage that she would later find out was the one read at their wedding.
What all these people were witnessing was what the medical professionals call the Final Surge. This burst of energy in the Dying can last any length of time. So far, no one knows why, or what triggers it. We do know it totally confuses family, who often let false hope of recovery take hold.
Now that YOU know this, you’ll be ready for it. When you tell others, they can share the gift. Because the big question is, how do you want to spend those precious last moments of clarity?
This article opened with several examples. We can use it well, or we can blow it. There is no need to run out of the room, looking to tell a nurse that the Dying person is up and chipper. You could miss the whole thing doing that. The key here is not to be surprised by it, but to wait for it, and to experience its holiness to the fullest.