Why was this the weirdest death I had witnessed?

Freda Savahl
3 min readAug 11, 2022

Strange but true.

Photo by JOHN TOWNER on Unsplash

A Hospice patient.

In 2013, I was a Hospice nurse in a Texas town of 20,400 population.

When there was a call to sit with a terminal patient, two of us would go to the patient’s home to provide comfort and prayer: the registered nurse and the Hospice Chaplain.

89-year-old Mr. Spencer, a veteran, was at the end of his life. On inspection, he had drooping eyelids & non-reactive pupils. His breathing was intermittent, & labored & at times gasping.

The man’s hands, feet & nose were cold & purplish. I noticed the skin became more & more blotchy. His heartbeat was irregular & pulses were weak. Pedal pulses were not palpable.

He lacked swallowing reflex, so I provided comfort by clearing secretions with automatic suction apparatus.

At times he moved his lips, but no words came out. I provided comfort & held his hand while his wife sat on the opposite side, stroking her husband’s arm & praying with the Chaplain.

Family members were all present except one son Alex who worked in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska. Alex had not visited his dad for the past two years. But the young man was expected to arrive shortly this very day.

We heard a truck pull up close to the front door. Then a handsome, robust young man burst through the front door, rushing to his dad’s bedside; he embraced his papa with his strong arms & crying out endearing words.

Unbelievably this moribund gentleman, who seemed lifeless, with no movements, opened his eyes, lifted his right hand to Alex’s face & with a weak but audible voice, uttered the word ‘Alex-son.’

Then he slumped back in the arms of his son.

A loud gurgle was heard as the man succumbed to death. Gasping breaths ceased, the weak irregular heartbeat was gone & Mr. Spencer was no longer in our world.

I could not believe that a terminal patient had any power left to acknowledge his son.

Freda Savahl

Retired Nurse Practitioner WHC /Contract Provider Deployment Military Services. US Citizen. Immigrant from South Africa 1978.