When it comes to challenging jobs, there is no doubt that being a Hospice nurse is at the top of the list. They are there for a person’s final years, months, or even days, and in that time, it is the job of a Hospice nurse to offer care and compassion, as well as any medical assistance needed.
And, of course, Hospice nurses see death almost every day. They listen to people’s last words, comfort them when they’re scared, and listen to them when they want to reminisce. So it’s not so surprising that as a Hospice nurse, one often thinks of their own death and what the afterlife might really be like.
One nurse, Hadley Vlahos, works as a hospice nurse in New Orleans and recently wrote about her experience entitled “The In-Between: Unforgettable Encounters During Life’s Final Moments.”
In the book, as well as in interviews, Vlahos explained that she has had a wide variety of experiences such as watching people celebrate their 100th birthday, sit with those who are willing and ready to die, and even listen to some who say they have no funerary requests.
However, one of the most interesting aspects of getting older that Hadley Vlahos has seen is that many people are ready to die long before they actually do. Vlahos told the press, “I have spent enough time around people who are close to 100, over 100, to know that once you start burying your children, you’re ready. Personally, I’ve never met someone 100 or older who still wants to be alive.”
In these cases, when a person is approaching a century of life and knows that death could come knocking any day, they often ensure they’re end of life plans are set and that their affairs are in order.
Though Vlahos also mentioned that for some, denying death’s imminent arrival is the only option and for those people, they often pass on without expressing their last wishes or goodbyes to their loved ones.
Seeing death like this every day is truly an eye opening experience for many Hospice nurses, including 31-year-old Vlahos. She said in one interview, “There’s this moment, especially when I’ve taken care of someone for a while, where I’ll walk outside and I’ll go fill up my gas tank and it’s like: Wow, all these other people have no idea that we just lost someone great. The world lost somebody great, and they’re getting a sandwich.”
Life goes on, as they say. But for those seeing death close up, it can truly change the way you see yourself and the world. But although Vlahos has certainly seen almost every kind of passing and understands the finality of it, she reports that she still doesn’t know what she thinks happens after that final breath is taken.
She understands death in theory, but she also explained, “The uncertainty I have is what after this life looks like. People ask me for those answers, and I don’t have them. No one does.”