My Father’s Beautiful Death By Sherri Chatman

Monday, 04 Mar 2013 07:52

About Dr. Monica Williams-Murphy (120 Posts)

Dr. Monica Williams-Murphy is a Board Certified Emergency Medicine Physician, who practices in one of the largest emergency departments in the United States at Huntsville Hospital. Through her writing and speaking, she is devoted to transforming the end of life into a time of peace, closure and healing. Media Page

Editor’s Note: Please note Sherri’s exquisite and beautiful attention to detail and environment as her father died. She created a sacred space, a sacred dying experience for her father and her family. Death is and can be further groomed to become a holy moment–this is most easily accomplished if dying can occur in the home. Imagine the stark contrast of experience that may have occured if instead, his dying took place in a hospital room or ICU.

On a sunny June morning last year, my Father died.

It was beautiful! The room was bright and praise music was playing.

As he was dying, my mother was sitting beside his bed holding his left hand and I was standing on the other side of the bed holding his right hand. Two of my

other sisters were also in the room.

As my mother was crying softly at his bedside, I was rubbing his hand and arm and telling him that it (dying) was ok. I also told him again that he had done a great job taking care of us and that everything (including his dying) was ok.

The situation was not tense but was quite peaceful. As strange as this may sound, in the midst of great sorrow, there was great joy in the room. The joy was from the sense of great anticipation. The “excitement” of the anticipation was that my Daddy had indeed done and was doing a great thing……he had lived a great life, had been a great Daddy and that he was going to be with Jesus, his parents, and his brother who had died in infancy.

I was also comforted and excited to know that one day, I would get to see him again, joining him in Heaven.

After the hospice nurse determined that indeed my father was no longer breathing nor was his heart beating, we prepared to bathe and dress him. One of my sisters put some warm water into the yellow basin that we had gotten from the hospital and then my sister, my niece, the hospice nurse and I began to bathe and lotion Daddy. We were quiet and not in a hurry.

This was a priceless and special time for me and my family.

He had a little dried blood in one side of his nose from having picked at his nose one night when he was fidgety. I remember gently wiping the dried bloodaway. It took a little time, because I wanted to be gentle and I didn’t want him to be dirty in any way.

We dressed him in a freshly laundered set of cool pajamas. I remember that the pajama bottoms were short because it was summer.

After we finished bathing and dressing him, I didn’t feel that I was done grooming him. Earlier in the week, I had attempted to shave him with his electric razor, but

that day, I wanted to do it again. So, I shaved him again, and then clipped all of his finger and toenails. The room was quiet and I remember some of his sisters watching me. While clipping his nails I saw that he was still wearing his wedding band. I didn’t want it to go with him to the funeral home, so I wanted to take if off and give it to my mother. I remember that even though he had lost weight, his ring was difficult to get off. I put lotion on his ring finger and gently twisted the ring back and forth until I got it off and gave it to my Mother.

After my father died and before our other family members started to come to our house, I made the announcement that we were NOT going to have any “cutting up” or “carrying on!” If they needed to holler and cut up, they had to do it somewhere other than at the house.

This time was a celebration and we were going to treat it as such!

At the end of the day and even eight months later, I am so grateful that my father had such a beautiful death.


Sherri Chatman and her husband have three adult sons. She works as a family nursepractitioner for a private hospice agency and as clinical adjunct faculty for a school of nursing. She is passionate about her work in local and international missions

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