They Comfort Strangers, So No One Dies Alone

05 Dec 2017

When patients are near death, and don’t have loved ones to be with them, David Wynn and Carolyn Lyon rush to the hospital. It is St. Joseph Hospital in Orange, Calif.;

Who are those people you take care of?

Lyon:They have no relatives, have no one for various reasons, you know, they’ve outlived family, they’ve never married.

How long have you been comforting patients in their final hours?

Lyon: David has been doing this for about nine years.For me, it’s been about six years.

What do you usually think ofin these hard hours?

Wynn: For some reason I always wonder about the person’s mother. She saw him first, and I saw him last. It was her and me that are the bookends of this person’s life. So each time that I leave a patient who has died, there is this element of sadness.

Butdoes this kind of work have its rewards?

Wynn: Certainly, it does! I remembers one man who was estranged from his family.

I was sitting there with him and I heard somebody at the door. Turns out it’s his son.

And he, I guess, felt a little bit uncomfortable?

Wynn: Rather.And so he asked me to stay. Then, the patient’s daughter came in. These are people who hadn’t seen each other in maybe 10 or 20 years.

Did the family members exchange apologies?

Wynn: Yes.I recall the daughter saying, “I don’t even know why I was angry at you, I don’t even remember.”And they said, “We’re going to try to be a family again.”

It must have beengreat consolation to all of them.

Wynn: O, this can’t be conveyed in words. You know, we talk about the last senses to go would be the sense of touch and hearing. And I hope that there was enough left of the dad that he had some sense that this bad situation had been healed through his death.

I felt honored, simply to witness that reconciliation, at the end of the man’s life.


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