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WATCH: A nurse’s gut-wrenching goodbye to a dying patient

By: Lindsey Bever, The Washington Post
October 27, 2017 Updated: October 27, 2017 at 11:15 pm
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WATCH: A nurse’s gut-wrenching goodbye to a dying patient (bigstock photo)

A nurse held Margaret Smith’s hand days before the 63-year-old cancer patient died, serenading her with her favorite song.

As Smith, who had been battling liver cancer, lay dying last week at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, one of her nurses sang Dani and Lizzy’s “Dancing in the Sky,” pausing in the middle of the song to wipe away her tears.

The moment was captured on video, showing the nurse, Olivia Neufelder, telling Smith to sing along with her “with a smile.”

“Okay, it’s our favorite part,” Neufelder told her in the gut-wrenching video, which has since been shared widely on social media. Smith then appeared to try to sing along:

Oh-oh, I,
I hope you’re dancing in the sky
And I hope you’re singing in the angel’s choir
And I hope the angels know what they have
I’ll bet it’s so nice up in heaven since you arrived

“Miss Marg has touched my heart in such an indescribable way,” Neufelder, 23, wrote Monday on Facebook. “I am so humbled and honored to be a Nurse. My thoughts and prayers are forever with this amazing family.”

Smith’s daughter, Megan, shared the video on Facebook over the weekend, saying Neufelder sat with her mother for hours and “sang a very special song to my sweet mother to comfort her.”

“You never left her side by choice!!” Megan Smith said about Neufelder.

“Words cannot describe the appreciation and love we feel for nurse Olivia who mom calls her angel!” she wrote. “Your dedication to your patients is beyond any that I have seen, you truly are a beam of light, and I cannot thank you enough for the compassion and care and love you shared for my mother. God bless you Olivia!”

Neufelder, who has been a nurse about a year, said she had never heard of “Dancing in the Sky,” but Smith told her it was special, so the young nurse memorized it and sang it to her daily to try to “keep her spirits up.”

Neufelder said Friday in an phone interview with The Washington Post that doctors told the dying patient last week that she was too ill to receive the liver transplant that she had been waiting for. She said Smith took her hand and told her that she did not want to die.

Neufelder said Smith started declining rapidly and, as family members gathered around her later in the day, Neufelder decided to sing.

In the video, Neufelder is seen stroking Smith’s hand, leaning in and singing the words to the song: “I hope you’re dancing in the sky. I hope you’re singing in the angel’s choir. I hope the angels know what they have. I’ll bet it’s so nice up in heaven since you arrived —”

She stopped, attempting to compose herself and dry her tears with her sleeve.

Another nurse could be heard in the background telling Smith also not to cry.

Neufelder said that the moment captured on video was an emotional one, “knowing that this could be the last time I was singing to her.”

“Those lyrics right there bring me to tears,” the nurse added. “It just was so real to me in that moment that she was going to be in heaven.”

Neufelder encouraged Smith to join in, and Smith’s chin quivered as she sang.

She said she later spoke on the phone to Smith, who was moved to a nursing home. “I told her, ‘You’re going to be my angel now,’ ” she said, adding that she told Smith to go up to the sky and she’d meet her there one day.

“It was really hard,” she said.

Smith died earlier this week, according to a GoFundMe page, which has raised more than $1,500 for her expenses. It stated that Smith was “a mom to a lot of our children, a prayer warrior for those who needed prayer, an ear for all of us in time of venting and just being the most perfect friend.”

Her funeral was Friday afternoon in Celina, Tenn., according to an obituary.

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Read this story at washingtonpost.com.

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