I recently had the privilege of being a caring presence during the last few weeks of my mother-in-law’s life. She was 80 years old and had been diagnosed with terminal thyroid cancer. There was no cure. Doctors informed her she had a very short time to live and she should go home and get her affairs in order. We spent quite a bit of time together during her last few weeks. Every day was a gift. She did a lot of talking and reminiscing. While I listened to her, I learned things I didn’t know about our family. Sometimes I would hold her hand or gently stroke her arm. When she would ask about the progression of her disease, I was always very honest with her. This helped to reassure her that I had only her best interest at heart. Sometimes we would just be silent and enjoy the moment; drawing comfort from each other. As she began to have more difficulty with speaking and writing, this is where my presence, not only as a daughter-in-law, but as a nurse, became so important for both of us. I tried to create a calming presence, one that was conducive to healing. Although I could not cure the disease, I wanted to help in healing her spirit. She wasn't afraid to die, she simply didn't want to. This was a very bittersweet time for both of us. It was very sad knowing we were losing her, but it was also a very peaceful time. She lost her ability to communicate her thoughts or wishes to me vocally. It’s hard to put into words how I felt, but it was as though I could feel within myself what she needed. When I looked into her eyes, it felt as though her spirit was in my soul. While doing what I could to enhance the quality of her death, she touched my heart in a way I will never forget. There was an incredibly strong presence in the room. I wanted her to feel as though her mind, body, and spirit were all being cared for. Healing presence is defined as, “As the condition of being consciously and compassionately in the present moment with another or with...
References: Dossey, B., & Keegan, L. (2009). Hollistic Nursing A Handbook for Practice (5th ed). Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett.
Miller, J. E., & Cutshall, S. C. (2001). The Art of Being a Healing Presence. fort Wayne, Indiana: Willowgreen.
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