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Tales of the Death Whisperer

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Kimberly's 18 years as a professional Certified Nursing Assistant give her hands-on knowledge about her experiences of death and dying.

Caution, This Content May Be Triggering

I will be sharing some of my earliest memories of death and how my life was affected by holding the hands of those crossing over. My eighteen-year career as a certified nursing assistant led me to a path where I became a "Death Whisperer."


"Nothing in Life is

Promised Except


— Kanye West

Death Shall Become Us All

Death is inevitable and comes knocking in many various, unique and sometimes perilous ways.

We come boldly into this world, each making a grand entrance. For most people, life is a celebration, while for others, it is not. The constant unknown in this life is the date of our journey home.

My First Touch of Death

I'm going to take you back a few decades in time to the beginning of my journey and how I befriended death through a process of circumstances.

My eleven-year-old self was stirred wide awake with startling news in the early morning hours; on that fateful day, my grandfather passed. My mother told me that my grandfather had suffered a massive heart attack and died just moments earlier.

Still in my pajamas and wrapped in a blanket, I remember the unsettling ride to my grandmother's home just a few minutes away. My mind was numb with emotions that I was too young yet to process fully. I headed to the very home and place in which my grandfather had passed away on the kitchen floor. Aside from some distant family, a great-grandmother, and my cat dying of illness, this was my first real hands-on personal experience with death.

When we arrived at my grandmother's home, I recalled extended family, lots of tears, phone calls, and raw emotions from family members. I remember my unsettling tears and emotions.

My young self was overwhelmed by the commotion of that early morning death. To make matters worse, my parents, in good intentions, told me I would be staying with my grandmother the rest of that day so she wouldn't be alone. They tucked me in my grandparent's bed were just hours previous, my grandfather had been alive and sleeping. I was supposed to be a comfort to my grandmother. My grandmother never liked me nor found any comfort through me on a good day. I couldn't make sense of them choosing me to help comfort the very woman who despised me.

That early morning I laid in the bed where my grandfather once slept, with a headache from too many emotions, and still, today can recall the stale smell of cigarettes, my grandfather's sweaty body, and the smell of alcohol.

Days passed, and family and friends made arrangements to coordinate the funeral and memorial services. I was expected to view my grandfather's cold dead body by my grandmother's side. I vividly remember viewing his body in the casket and feeling creeped out. A cold shiver bolted through my entire eleven-year-old body. My grandmother insisted that I touch his cheek and hand and bid him a proper goodbye. That frightening moment was seared into my soul for the rest of my life.


More Deaths During My Formative Years

I had attended many funerals following the death of my grandfather. Great grandparents, various extended family members, and friends. Growing up during my young years one particular friend was found hanging in her garage (circumstances pointed to a murder/suicide) her case was never solved. In my teen years, I lost a few friends to auto-related deaths and another friend to a fume-induced vehicle suicide. Each loss added to my grief and unresolved emotional traumas.

Death Is Inevitable

Death finds us one way or another, whether by suicide, homicide, murder, accident, illness, or just plain old age. Death is life's final act before the curtain closes to the next scene. Not all deaths can be prepared for and honored, but many can.

I wish I could say that all deaths are peaceful passing, but that is far from true. It has grieved me many times watching a painful or untimely death. A reason to live well and be at peace daily is that you never know when your time is up.

Death brings much grief and sadness no matter the circumstances surrounding the passing. Some cultures are more prepared to honor death and more accepting of grief and mourning than others. In North America, I feel that society is very much removed from death and dying. America is a productivity-driven society that doesn't leave much room for mourning, grieving, and traditions.

"It is not the length of life,

but depth of life."

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

Making Amends with Death

I became a certified nursing assistant at the age of twenty years old. I was a new mother to my baby girl and got my feet wet in the real world. I worked 10-14 hour shifts, spending most of my time with an older population of patients.

My job was helping and assisting the elderly at the nursing homes; This is where I genuinely learned about life and death. This job brought me closer to understanding that, in this case, death was just a natural progression and extension of life.

I learned to embrace my patients with absolute love, care, and respect for a well-lived life. Each patient had a story to tell, and I was there to listen and engage them in their memories.

I made many beautiful connections with the people that I ended up taking care of. When I took the job, I wasn't thinking of dealing with my patients' deaths; I took the job with the forethought that I would care and provide for those in need of extra tender love and care during their older years.

It wasn't long after my hire that I was face to face with the death of a dear patient of mine. A person with which I had helped daily prepare for her activities, with whom I had spent heart-to-heart conversations with and with whom I had grown to admire and appreciate, was now lying dead before me. Her death was unexpected.

This woman's life and death left a profound impact on my life. She was the first person of many in my career that followed that I was responsible for tending to her body. I assisted with the proper preparations in making her presentable to her loved ones to view her body and say their final goodbyes before the coroner arrived. The act of caring for this patient's body after her passing was alarming and yet such a privilege.

Tending to my patients' lifeless bodies after they had deceased was an unusual opportunity to care for and be a blessing to their families. My job of providing a clean, presentable viewing of a loved one's family member was an act of genuine care and my gift to both my deceased patient and their family members.


When Life Meets Death

I will share this unforgettable moment I encountered while working in the nursing home. One afternoon I entered one of my favored patient's rooms. He and I started a conversation as we often did while tending to his foot care, carefully applying lotion to his diabetic legs and slipping him into the ted-hose socks. I assisted him in getting dressed and sat him up on the edge of his bed. He was in good spirits, wearing a smile across his face. As I lifted him to transfer him from the bed to his wheelchair, he passed in my arms. He had just been laughing and carrying on a conversation with me; he was here one moment and transposed the very next. I found him unresponsive and unable to revive. His death remains with me to this day. When I think of him, I smile, knowing that he lived an incredible life. What a gift it was to be a part of his journey.

I will share another unique story. I worked the night shift at the nursing home and had one female patient nearing the end of her life. She was sharing with me the visitors in her room. Mind you, I was the only other physical presence in the room. She verbalized that her loved ones were there to take her home; This went on for the next couple of days before her very peaceful passing. How blessed I was to be a part of these kinds of life and death transitions.

"Yet the lessons of kindness and love you taught me,

And the good things in life you've helped me to see;

Linger as lasting gifts that comfort and will sustain,

Until I journey to that peaceful shore

and see you again."

— Belinda Stotler

Whispers of Compassion

Over the years, I graduated from working in nursing home facilities to a career in Private Home Health, aiding Hospice Patients with their end-of-life wishes. I learned that I could be instrumental in helping those who still had a say in their death.

I chose to think of death as part of living and that everyone should have the right to dignity and respect in their end-of-life wishes. I also believe that no person should have to transition this end-of-life journey alone.

It became my job to enter a patient's home and befriend them during the last stretch of their journey to the other side. Every patient received dignity and respect, and each patient's religious views, medical wishes, and daily care were all upheld in the highest manners of ethical consideration.

Many of my private home health patients were fighting cancer; medical treatments were followed as they remained under the direct care of their attending physicians.

My job entailed taking care of every physical need, clothing, bathing, feeding, administering meds, and coordinating care with the Hospice Nurses but more than that, my job was to be present.

I was no respecter of persons; I held hands and whispered words of compassion to the policeman, poet, coal miner, homemakers, nuclear physicist, business owners, school teacher, service member, and government workers. Many of my patients were afflicted with but not limited to Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, Diabetes, and Cancer.

When it came time to exit this plane of existence on earth, most of them longed to know that their lives had made a difference; many felt cut short on their time here. They wanted someone to bring peace and assurance. The focus was on reflection and making sure their loved ones could carry on without them. Many wanted to tidy up any loose business or loose ends they had with friends and family.

Out of all my hand holding and whisperings, I only encountered one person who preferred to go the distance alone, and that was his last right and prerogative. Nonetheless, no one should have to die alone if they would choose not to.


Death Is Inescapable; After All, We Are Just Walking One Another Home.

I became family to those who had no one to be by their side. I was able to help bring some peace into the last wishes of my clients. My presence allowed them to find acceptance and closure in their pending last days. I held their hands, and as their time drew nigh, I would whisper words of encouragement that everything was as it should be and that it was okay for them to cross over; This is how I became the "death whisperer."

The tragedy of my grandfather's passing when I was so young and the unforgettable horrific memory seared into my mind was not something that robbed me of my gift. Instead, it drove me to be a person of compassion and love and give the gift of just being present and available to my patients during their last moments in the here and now.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2021 Nana