The Wake Before The Funeral

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    North London Hospice
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Our community nurses often care for a patient and their family for weeks, months, sometimes years. As well as caring for them, they’ll get to know them as people with lives and histories. So when patients pass away, you may wonder what mark this can leave on a nurse?

Our Enfield community nurse Ayesha Ruiters was privileged to be invited to a patient’s wake recently, held before he died, and felt compelled to write about the experience in a letter to the late Mr Stone.

Dear Mr Stone

I was informed that you died peacefully at home with your family present. Although I am sad I am left with this overwhelming feeling of gratitude that you allowed me to be a part of your journey.  I was part of the wake before the funeral. You were told that you had 4 weeks to live.  In the end it was about 5 weeks.

During my first home visit following your discharge home from hospital I was told that the wake would be before the funeral because there was no point in talking about how wonderful someone was after their death when you could be telling them while they were still alive. It was going to be a party till the end and you did not disappoint.

Family and friends came to spend time with you. They were able to tell you how much you were loved and appreciated. You allowed people to spend time with you even when you were tired and too breathless to talk. You received lots of cards.  

I enjoyed the lemon drizzle cake we had during one of my home visits, made especially for me by your granddaughter on your request.  You were the perfect host.  The cake was divine.

You showed me your ‘death face’ for taking photos. When you almost fell out of bed I asked if you had not learned to float yet and you smiled. We agreed that while I enjoyed the visits to your home there would be no further need for me to use up my petrol for home visits since after your death it would be easier for you to visit me.  All I had to do was put up a sign so you would know which chair in the office was mine.

 You said that if there was something like returning to this life you want to come back as a stone so that you could be indestructible.

You called me your death angel because you could not remember palliative care. That was your explanation but I wondered if you knew all along or if the penny finally dropped and you realised that care at the end-of-life was my area of expertise.

I sensed your trust in my ability to manage your symptoms and support you and your family during the last few weeks of your life. I hope I made you proud. Thanks to you I was able to experience the wake before the funeral.  You made the last few weeks of your life special for everyone involved. It is an experience not to be missed.

Thank you again Mr Stone. RIP

Your Death Angel

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