To help someone let go and pass away

3 December 2023

Soeur Cécile, lâcher prise pour mourir
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Sometimes it takes only a few words to help someone let go and pass away. Drawing from her experience as a nurse and that of accompanying people at the end of life, Sister Cecilia recalls how a liberating cue allowed a dying woman to let go and pass away in peace.

Sometimes people need our help to get through the very demanding threshold of death. This step requires a huge effort to let go and remit oneself into the hands of God, and accept to move on towards the unknown. Despite what faith may assert, passing away still remains utter mystery. People can find it hard to let go and surrender.

When I was a nurse, I used to work in a hospital, in surgery. On our ward, there was this lady suffering from cancer, at the end of her life, who was single, had no family, and was rather isolated, receiving no visits whatsoever. I had seen her at the parish, so I gathered she was Christian. She apparently had been on a pilgrimage to Lourdes, but I had never had the opportunity to exchange with her about faith. So, there she was on our ward, in a comatose state. Thus, chances of communicating with her were scarce.

In her condition, the nursing staff expected her to pass away at any time. I was off for a few days, and I thought: “When I get back, she probably won’t be there”. Yet, she was!

Allowed to let go

One day, as I was doing my rounds, I was able to spend time with her. I felt in my heart that I had to talk to her Christian to Christian. I said to her: “I am aware that you have faith. Now, go ahead. The Blessed Virgin Mary is awaiting you. Do not fear.” Only but a few words. Then, I remained there on my own for a short while and prayed discreetly in silence, in respect for my colleagues.

I went on and carried out the rest of my rounds. One hour later, a care assistant told me that this person had passed away. I realised only then how she had been in need of my help so as to allow herself to trustfully surrender into Mary’s hands.

“Pray for us now and at the hour of our death”, is what we ask in every “Hail Mary” that we utter. On that day I experienced it first hand. The blessed Virgin Mary was there, yet sometimes we have to help people to surrender into the hands of their Mother.

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