My dear friend Sue Costello shared an experience with me that was so moving I invited her to share it with others here. (She’s a regular reader of this blog.) I didn’t know anything about “honor walks” before, and I’m so glad to hear about this end-of-life ritual that is such a seemingly small thing yet brings so much light to an otherwise dark moment. Sue’s write-up is below. Thank you so much, Sue, for sharing your beautiful story with us!
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After work Thursday night my husband, Roland, and I went to the hospital to visit the kids’ great-aunt, Em. She had been taken by ambulance in the wee hours of the morning and was in the intensive care unit after having emergency surgery. Em’s nurse explained everything about her condition and assured us that Em was doing just fine. She asked if we would mind leaving Em’s room for a few minutes while they attended to her. She said, “There’s going to be a walk of honor in a few minutes. Do you know what that is?” “No.” “It’s a ritual to honor someone who’s consented to donate their organs. When you go through the doorway you’ll see people starting to line the hallway. You can join them if you’d like.”
As we left the ICU we could see what she meant. Visitors who’d been in the waiting room were all standing against the walls on both sides. There were nurses and doctors along with other hospital staff doing the same. I saw a couple of young guys, probably 18 or 19 years old, sitting on a bench. A man, probably their dad, walked up to them and said, “When you see that bed come through the door, you stand up!” “Okay.”
The door opened and on the bed was a 20-something woman. All the tubes and IVs were neatly coiled beside her. A nurse was pushing the bed and walking behind them was the woman’s family. Everyone stood so still and so quietly as they moved past us and turned the corner to go through the next hall. I looked up at Roland. He was visibly moved and had tears in his eyes. He said, “I can see a helicopter out the window. I think it’s waiting for her.”
It was a surreal moment. It was so sad, but also so beautiful and sweet. It seemed huge to me. I know it was huge for this woman and her family. It was her time to leave this world and she was giving the gift of her organs so someone else could have a longer life. I felt humbled and honored to be a witness to this along with everyone else in that hallway. I wondered how I got here. What an amazing blessing!
Here’s a link to an article about honor walks by Dr. Tim Lahey, published in the New York Times: