Hospice Patient’s Final Wish to See the Universe

 In Patient & Family Stories

It was at last winter’s solstice that Sharon Connell had one of her most cherished wishes granted: she saw the sun as few on the planet will ever see it. But her view from the snow-edged patio at Denver’s Holly Heights Care Center encompassed far more than the muted December sky and the shining golden orb.

Sharon was seeing her forever.

“I know I am going to die, soon,” she told a small gathering of new friends and Stacey, her nurse from The Denver Hospice who made Stacey’s astronomical adventure possible. “Once my body is too tired and I’m told ‘okay, you’ve done what you can,’ I feel my soul will go off into the Universe. Because I believe our souls are energy, just as the Universe is energy.

“This has always fascinated me,” she continued, struggling to lift a three-inch thick volume titled UNIVERSE: The Definitive Visual Guide from beside her hospice bed and locating a well-read section. “First there was the Universe series on TV–my grandson loaded that on my iPad so I can have it any time. And then there was Morgan Freeman with Through the Worm Hole.  And the Hubble telescope! Oh, the Hubble! I saw those images and thought, ‘How can something be that beautiful?’”

Although she had been raised Catholic, Sharon noted that her terminal diagnosis has given her a perspective beyond her traditional faith. “For me, there is such a sense of comfort in what we have learned about what’s out there. When you look up at the stars, that light is millions of years old. The sun…the earth…the moon…and we are part of it!”

While Sharon could go on by herself about the Universe, on one special day she had plenty of expert company. Sharon’s hospice team had arranged for two visitors from the Lookout Mountain Nature Center–Naturalist/Director Peg Alig and Astronomer/Volunteer Simon Young. Her visitors brought a telescope, one with a lens larger than a dinner plate.

Over the next 45 minutes, a mini-astronomy course took place on the wintry patio right at the Holly Heights Care Center, with Sharon bundled in purple parka, hat and gloves. Peg and Simon explained that it took 8.25 minutes for light to reach earth from the sun. They showed her a photo of the sun taken that day (available each day at www.spaceweather.com) and told her she would be seeing some sunspots, dark spots caused by intense magnetic energy. Sharon knew all about sunspots, telling her guests that the sunspot activity grows strongest in 11-year cycles.

Peering into the telescope and seeing the sun, she shouted, “That is so unbelievable! Oh, my gosh! And those sunspots…they look like freckles!” The small group around her laughed, too, caught in the joy of an astronomical dream delivered.

Sharon Connell died in January 2014 and her energy passed into the Universe.

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