Trust in What?

My most memorable experience with “helping” a dying patient was when I was a paramedic. We responded to a call around 10 p.m. in one of the so-called “projects”. As we entered the front door, we saw an elderly black man, late 70s or early 80s, lying motionless on a hospital bed in the living room. His family was gathered around him, heads bowed and weeping softly. His eyes were closed and he was breathing.

His wife explained that he had a long bout with cancer and had been recently sent home from the hospital because there was nothing else they could do for him there.

In an effort to wake him up, I gently shook him while saying, “Mr. Johnson, Mr. Johnson.” (not his real name) No response. I pinched his leg. No response. The final thing I did was something that hurts A LOT to a conscious person: I pressed one of my knuckles into his sternum. Still no response. Despite my efforts, Mr. Johnson remained totally unresponsive to verbal or painful stimuli.

When we contacted his physician on the phone, we were told that his body was riddled with cancer and that there was nothing more that could be done for him at the hospital. His MD stated that the family agreed to let him die in peace at home, but, apparently, they weren’t as prepared for that event as they thought.  The doctor instructed us to transport Mr. Johnson to the hospital so that he could die there, and added, “No heroics” (i.e., no IV, no oxygen, no monitor, no CPR, no lights and sirens).

Mr. Johnson remained totally unresponsive while we transferred him from the bed onto our stretcher. There was about 15-20 yards of grass between his apartment and where our ambulance was parked. We rolled the stretcher over the bumpy grass out to the ambulance, not to be “mean”, but to see if THAT might elicit some response). We lifted him into the ambulance, locked the stretcher in place, and closed the back doors. I rode in back with him while my partner drove at normal speed.

I continued my attempts to stimulate him by calling his name several times, jostling him from left to right, and gently pressing a knuckle into his sternum. Still no response. I sat back and began to write my run report, documenting the night’s events.

I looked up for a second and looked at him lying motionless on the stretcher in front of me and thought, “This man is dying.” I realized my run report could wait until after our arrival at the hospital.

That’s when something deep within me said, “He’s not responding to words or pain. I wonder if he’ll respond to love.” I placed the paperwork next to me on the bench, leaned forward, picked up his hand and held it in mine. Taking a conscious breath (as I learned from Prem Rawat), I FELT a STRONG CONNECTION with my Creator as that breath bridged the gap between my finite body and the infinite that resides within me, filling me once again with this precious gift of life. At that exact MOMENT, Mr. Johnson opened his eyes, slowly turned his head towards me, looked into my eyes and smiled. He then closed his eyes, and died.

I wasn’t saddened, I was humbled. I felt grateful and fortunate that I was “used” to comfort and assist this man during his transition from this life to whatever happens next.

People who are dying are spiritually attuned, and their need is for that to be validated. Mr. Johnson was oblivious to verbal and painful stimuli. Those were external, physical forces. But, somehow, he was awakened by an unseen Love that can only be FELT. Although no words were exchanged, there is no doubt that his smile was his way of saying “Thank you.” It was as if he was waiting for an affirmation of Love, God, Truth – whatever you want to call it – before leaving his body.

This one incident was a gentle, yet powerful, reminder to trust in the ONLY thing that is worthy of our trust: the ONE LOVE that connects us all.

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