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'I'm not a great fan of the supernatural, but there are some things that just can't be explained'


David shares with a us a story he was told by a nurse caring for a patient at the end of his life.

“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

So says Hamlet to Horatio.


Despite being a Chaplain, I am more like Horatio than Hamlet. I deal with stuff and am not a great fan of the supernatural. In my experience, I’ve found that usually a “supernatural” experience can be explained in scientific terms. That’s just the way I’m built.

So when other Vicars might look for supernatural explanations, I find myself with the more prosaic.

“Where did this happen? What were the precursors? Who was around? What stimulation in the environment?”

That’s the hospital way. Science and explanation. Steeped in modernity.

So I pass onto you an experience that a nurse sent to me via email. It is full of care and compassion and commitment and competence and communication and courage.

But it has one more element that is more difficult to explain.

I wonder how it happened? To be honest I don’t know, but I have a feeling that the synergy between nurse, patient and relatives had something to do with it. Have a read and let me know what you think:

“I just had to share my experience the other night while on shift.

“I had been looking after a gentleman who was quite poorly, he was too ill to dialyse as his blood pressure was low and he was frequently in severe pain with bilateral leg ulcers.

“His family took turns to visit and he had many lovely pictures and photos of the grandchildren by his bed, which is always lovely to see.

“A few days passed and it was handed over that my patient was coming towards the end of his life. I made a side room available for his personal privacy and dignity and more space for the family to be by his side at this very personal time.

“I introduced myself using hello my name is to some of the family members I hadn’t yet met and made my patient comfortable. We gave mouth care, syringe driver for pain relief and gentle medications to make him as comfortable as possible.

“I got the z-bed and other things for the family to stay, offered them hot drinks and a listening ear if they needed anything at this difficult time.

“Over the following two nights I could see the family were getting upset and anxious as to how long they would see him suffering and they asked us to advise how long this would last. I made arrangements for other members of staff to finish my medications so I could spend time with the family to go over their fears and concerns.

“While I was in the room, the grandaughter came in and said to me that she had a premonition that he would pass away at 10pm that evening and would be greeted by his wife who had also passed away a few years ago. I listened and carried on with my duties.

“At 9.50pm the family called me, very excited. I came into the room and they told me his breathing had changed and they felt it was going to be imminent. The granddaughter started crying, saying “I told you, I told you! Nanny is coming to get you granddad, I told you!”

“Just then, the patient opened his eyes for the first time in a while, looked around and took his last breath at exactly 10pm.

“I will never forget the elation on the faces of the family. To hold on to hope that he will be met by his loved one, at peace, with family by his side was so emotional.

“All of a sudden beautiful fireworks rang around the hospital and local area, pretty colours lighting up the sky, and the family starting crying again, smiling, ecstatic. They explained that he was born on firework night, so he came in to the world to fireworks and went out to the sound of fireworks.

“The family finally left with their hearts sad but totally elated by the special experience they witnessed this evening. Whether everything that happened that evening was just coincidental or not, they have taken comfort from this spiritual experienceand I was so lucky to be part of it.”


Readers' comments (5)

  • Over the years I have had many 'odd' times. The Burns Unit was the most uncomfortable. There were 3 staff on nights. The most seriously ill were on monitor.
    The rounds were done hourly, usually by 1 person. However on occasions the person whose round it was would get to the door and be spooked for no reason other than the cold corrdor in a heated, sealed unit. All three staff would do the round. The next round was fine.
    Some times we would go to a door of a room and the door wouldnt open. We left it knowing that the patient would have died when we went back. We could see them on the monitor and nothing was out of place. When we went back at the end of the round, within 10 minutes usually, the door would open and the pt had died. They were expected deaths.
    Another scary thing was rooms. We would find that all patients going into a particular room would die. This was regardless of the extent of the burns. We would stop using that room for as long as we could. A couple of months later the same thing would happen with another room.
    No one had any explainations for these things happening.
    I worked for 7 years on the unit and loved it

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  • a beautiful story and if the family believe in it they must be left with that memory.

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  • Thank you for sharing that David and to the lovely nurse. I am a great believer in the after life but don't push it on others so I really enjoyed this post. I have had lots of experiences both professionally and personally so no-one can change my mind. One that stands out was an elderly lady in a residential home whose feet I was massaging at the time. She suddenly looked to the side of her, smiled radiantly, and said "My husband is here". She died soon after. There are lots of books out there with people's experiences including near death ones which are even accepted by scientists now. I also believe in premonitions and this was a beautiful one for the people left behind. There is an unfortunate connotation with the word supernatural but just reverse it: Naturalsuper - it's natural, and it's super. But each to their own.

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  • I'm a spiritualist, but that's my own private thing - its my faith and its not something that others would get, so they don't need to know it.....
    I believe that the events described are simply those from the other side coming to greet the patient as they make the journey.
    I've lost count of the number of dying patients who open their eyes and smile and stare at a corner of the room, however briefly, and I'm sure that others would agree....
    and lets not forget the nursing rituals....always leave a window open....and a light on if possible....I was informed of these ritualsin a reverential terms by an extremely pragmatic/un sentimental sister on my first placement nearly 14 years ago.....

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  • I'm a Christian Spiritualist too and do not tend to talk openly about it at work unless I am asked or with people of like mind. I don't feel others wouldn't get it so don't need to know though as there have been many occasions when it has come up in the conversation and a very interesting debate has followed. I would never assume someone wouldn't understand something just because I do and in actual fact I find there is a lot of people who think on these lines who just keep it to themselves. That's what free speech is all about so let's use it! We can always agree to disagree. My faith and a sense of humour has got me through life so far and I hope they both continue to.

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