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Hospice Nurse’s Amazing Stories of Life’s In-Between Moments

In-Between Hospice book

By Kathy A. Megyeri 

Book Review: “The In-Between, Unforgettable Encounters During Life’s Final Moments,” by Hadley Vlahos, RN 

If there are angels among us on Earth, they are probably hospice nurses. Death is a difficult topic for us all, and it takes a person with empathy and a caring nature to work daily with those who are dying and their grieving family members. The outcome is never going to be a joyful time of family celebration, but as Hadley Vlahos, author of this ground-breaking book says, “I’ve never met someone 100 or older who still wants to be alive. I want us to try to make peace with death, not to extend life.” 

For the many people are dealing with hospice care for themselves or our loved ones, this book is a God-send. A decade ago, 31-year-old author Vlahos was struggling through nursing school as a single mother, but she switched to hospice nursing and was drawn to this most intense, physically demanding and emotionally draining profession. Caring for those at the end of their lives, a time she calls the “in-between,” became the title of her first book, “The In-Between: Unforgettable Encounters During Life’s Final Moments.” 

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The book is uplifting and a joy to read although it relates Vlahos’s experiences with 12 of her hospice patients – vignettes of guiding the ill and their families through the in-between zone. She notes the commonalities she’s witnessed: patients speaking to those already deceased; those who suffer from COPD, so common as they cope with ragged breathing; and people who have had spiritual encounters. In the end, they all want the same things: “Care, comfort and connection.” After the required protocol of listening for a heartbeat for two minutes and calling out the time of death, she emerges mentally saying, “Thank you for allowing me to take care of you. I really enjoyed taking care of you.” 

Vlahos still works as a hospice nurse outside New Orleans and believes the book’s success is due to people seeing their loved ones depicted in these stories. She is surprised when people don’t know what they want at the end of life—do they want to be in a nursing home or at home? Do they want to be organ donors? Do they have directives and living wills? Do they want burial or cremation?  

I hope that my own final moments will be serene and under the watchful caring eyes of a hospice nurse such as Hadly Vlahos who’s done her profession proud because she shows that end-of-life care teaches us just as much about how to live life as it does about how we die. “Nurse Hadley,” as she’s called, is currently establishing a nonprofit respite hospice house, “a serene sanctuary for families to gather and commemorate the lives of their loved ones in an environment of support and solace,” as she describes it. That would certainly be an added benefit of her comforting book’s success and just another way to exhibit her own love, compassion, patience, care, dedication, tenderness and love of humanity.