The room was packed, with tambourines and drums in individuals’ hands. A resident had passed, and we were gathered to walk alongside the man named John. They called it a walk-out. 

In the past, I have participated when an organ donor is wheeled into the operating room. We would gather along the hallways, heads bowed, eyes brimmed over with tears as we knew so well — that to arrive to this moment, the loved ones had to have walked a profound valley in their decision-making. The honoring of giving life, the recognition of the decision of the loved ones to donate — that is why we are there.

This moment was very different. The drums were softly banged as he was wheeled into the room. He was covered in a beautiful quilt, recognizing his service in the Navy. He wore his favorite hat as he lay in the middle of the room. Stories were told, and Ave Maria was sung a cappella in the native tongue of her ancestors. As I looked around the room, I noticed several nursing students witnessing the same beauty of honoring an individual that I was seeing.

As the time together gently came to an end. The drums beat again, escorting him down the hallway to the waiting car. As he was loaded into the car and the door was shut, the drums loudly resounded one last time. One last beat to recognize a life and a passing.

As I turned, I was taken aback by how many people were standing there. Employees had come from all over the building, and every department was represented. Some knew him, some did not. But they all knew that this was important. An employee captured my arm and said, “This is why I work here.” “We are a family, and we are a community. We laugh together, and we cry.” Quietly, she said again, “This is why I work here.”

Later that day, I saw the student nurses in a conference room. I asked them what their thoughts were about the walk-out. Amazing and beautiful were adjectives mentioned. One of the soon-to-be nurses asked if that happens in all places when someone dies. I acknowledged that it does not, but it should.

The beauty of the walk-out honored not just the passing of an exceptional man but the deep connection of human beings to one another. I reflected on the ceremony later that I was blessed to witness that day. 

Let me share with you:

Nothing is more beautiful than people being together in the spirit of love.

We all long for deeper connections and meaning to our work. To find it is a special gift to be cherished. 

The questions I asked myself and will ask you are: 

How can we create this sense of community and love in our organizations? 

How can we honor those we are called to serve throughout their journey, including their passing?

It can be done, as I witnessed on this special day. 

Martie L. Moore, MAOM, RN, CPHQ, is the President/CEO of M2WL Consulting. She has been an executive healthcare leader for more than 20 years. She has served on advisory boards for the National Pressure Injury Advisory Panel and the American Nurses Association, and she currently serves on the Dean’s Advisory Board at the University of Central Florida College of Nursing and Sigma, International Honor Society for Nursing. She was honored by Saint Martin’s University with an honorary doctorate degree for her service and accomplishments in advancing healthcare.

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