March 4

This story by palliative care nurse specialist Barbarita Lee arrived in the new year. Her palliative care team won the 2023 End-of-Life Nursing Education Consortium (ELNEC) International Prize for Excellence in Palliative Care.

An Angel by Her Side: Love & chocolate in Mexico

By IAHPC member Barbarita Lee, RN, CHPN
Querétaro, México

Palliative care nurse Barbarita Lee with Mr. Angel. Photo used with permission.

Last night, I received a call about a change in my hospice patient, Mr. Angel, who has suffered for over a year with extreme metastic cancer. I have been caring for him and visiting his family all of 2023. I went to see him last night, and as soon as I entered the room, I sensed that he was in transition. He was in a deep sleep, his mouth open and dry, with pauses in his breathing... all signs that his time was near. 

I explained to his wife and his brother that in such a state, patients usually can no longer respond, but can still hear.

I sat by his side, told him I was there, and spoke to him up close. To my surprise, he woke up and was very alert. We proceeded to have an honest conversation about what was happening to him: we had talked several times about his impending death in the past and what it could be like. I told him that I thought he only had a day or so more to live.  

He acknowledged this, and he expressed his love and gratitude to his wife, who was there by his side. They shared a tender moment, exchanging kisses through tears. Although he couldn't speak very clearly because it was difficult for him to pronounce words, I could see the love for her in his eyes. I translated his slurred words, that he assured her of his love and thanked her for her dedication. He turned to me at one point and said “You are a good translator!” We were all surprised by his lucidity.

He even thanked me for my work with his family, and he mentioned the date (two days before Christmas), even though he used to get confused about days. 

Despite barely eating for weeks, he also asked for bites of dark chocolate. We gave them to him little by little as we talked. He told me that everyone should enjoy chocolates on every day, and especially Christmas. I promised him that every Christmas, I would have a chocolate in his honor and remember his memory. He smiled and said, "¡Ándale!" (That’s it!)

It was his last night. Later, his wife called and told me that he passed away peacefully this morning. I am sad, but I am glad that the suffering has ended for all involved. (Including me!) 

Please, in remembrance of Mr. Angel, remember to have a chocolate today!


This newsletter, including (but not limited to) all written material, images, photos are protected under international copyright laws and are property of the IAHPC. You may share the IAHPC newsletter preserving the original design, the IAHPC logo, and the link to the IAHPC website, but you are not allowed to reproduce, modify, or republish any material without prior written permission from the IAHPC.