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Department: Nursing in the Church

God's Perfect Timing

Bruce, Phyllis M.

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doi: 10.1097/CNJ.0000000000000836
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Sarah∗ had recently had serious abdominal surgery that was complicated by a cardiac arrest. Now she was receiving palliative care. Her friend and healthcare advocate had previously emailed me, asking for prayer. When the advocate called to ask me if I would come to see Sarah, I was uncertain if this was the right time to visit. The advocate said that Sarah's niece was requesting support for herself and for Sarah, so we scheduled a time for that afternoon.

To my surprise, when I walked into Sarah's room, several people were present. I approached the bed, took Sarah's hand, and spoke with her; she was unresponsive. Noting her breathing, I realized she was actively dying. I asked permission to anoint Sarah and to offer a prayer and blessing. The family said that would be wonderful. Sarah's sister got up to let me sit close to Sarah. I made the sign of the cross on her forehead with the anointing oil: “Sarah, I anoint you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” Then, as I started to pray, Sarah took a deep gasp and stopped breathing.

There was an audible gasp in the room, and then, “Oh my, she's gone!”

In that holy moment, Sarah had passed through the thin veil from this life to the next. We were silent, looking for any more signs of life, but all was peaceful.

A little later, I felt overwhelmed, realizing what had happened. This had been a “God moment,” one that only he could have orchestrated. Only God has that kind of perfect timing.

Days later, I received another call from Sarah's healthcare advocate. She wanted me to know that Sarah's niece had shared that she had been struggling with her faith, but when she saw Sarah's last breath as she was anointed, she felt her faith return and was grateful for that holy moment.

As faith community nurses (FCNs), we need keen perception to follow God's promptings, whether these promptings come via his still, small voice or as a phoned request from another person. Taking the opportunity to pray for or be present with a person and their loved ones at the end of life is a privilege and sacred responsibility. This element of practicing as an FCN—the bringing of God's presence to the patient or family experiencing a need or life transition—is a distinct privilege of an FCN.

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July 9-11, 2021

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