Death knows no age. Four-year-old Julian is fast asleep in his bed. He’s wearing a rumpled T-shirt and a diaper. He looks angelic in the sweet, innocent way sleeping kids do. But Julian is a kid with a difference: he has brain cancer and is living on the edge of life. His family is taking a much-needed break, and I am watching him.
I look around me, take in his surroundings. Every room in hospice has its own distinctive character. It is a character created by the family of the dying loved one. In this case, I see a big blue balloon, tethered to a corner chair, bobbing buoyantly as if it’s trying to stay upbeat in the face of such great grief. Off to the corner is an assortment of stuffed animals. A sweet little note is pinned to the notice board, a big red heart drawn around it by a hospice nurse.
This little boy is dying, I think.
This little boy is dying, the thought drops into my heart.
And then the tears come. Tears of deep sadness at the meager ration of time this beautiful soul has chosen. Tears of grief for what lies ahead for for those who love this precious boy.
I start to sing softly, my fingers threading his curly mop. A few English songs and some in my native tongue from my country, India.
You’re too young to die, my heart screams.
Pumped full of meds, Julian sleeps on, unaware of his surroundings, unaware of my finger tracing a line down his soft cheek, unaware of my voice wobbling with emotion.
I sing, the words holding rich meaning for me. But they would make any sense to Julian, had he been listening. Even as I think the thought, my heart skips a beat. I realize that my native tongue and his hardly matter; his milky-white skin and my cinnamon-brown skin are of no consequence. The song is the musical cord that connects two hearts, two souls. The words wash over and soothe his spirit. They are a plea to God, a call for peace and love.
Thirty precious minutes of togetherness at the end of his young life. That’s what our souls — Julian’s and mine — have agreed to. It’s a truth I live by every time I visit with a dying patient in hospice. The moments of true connection may be short, but they are the most real.
If you have an opportunity to spend ten minutes with someone, don’t discount the value of that time. Soul connections are made in spirit-time, not earth-time. Those ten minutes could keep someone going for years. You never know. To read more about soul connections, read my book “Understanding Death: 10 Ways to Inner Peace for the Grieving.”