Justin Baldoni Talks about the Powerful Space at the Bedside of the Dying
We started by asking Justin what initially stirred him to shine light on end-of-life issues.
“Two things. It is thanks to palliative care and hospice workers in combination with my faith that I'm even doing this work today. I was 20 years old when we learned that my Uncle Louie had lung cancer. I didn't know him that well, but I started to get to know him as he was dying. It’s one of the ways I realized I was drawn to this work. A lot of people feel compelled to run from it, but I found myself being like, wait, he's dying. I need to go to him. I need to meet him where he is. So, I flew a couple of times to Naples, Florida where he lived.
The last time I flew out, no one else was able to go and he had only a week or so left. I watched my family panicking, not knowing what to do, and I remember, the nurses were so calm. They kept giving him more medicine of course and doing their best to hold space. I had conversations with these nurses who were like living saints, these hospice workers and doctors who cared so deeply about not only my uncle, but all of us in the space that we were sharing with him.
A point came where he wasn't transitioning even though it seemed like the time, and I remember wanting so much to hold space. So, I got on speakerphone and called people he hadn't talked to in 10 or 15 years. They were on the other end apologizing for different things and crying. He’s in between this world and the next and still in pain and fidgety, and that didn't work. I then asked the other relatives to leave because maybe he needed space. We went through all of it. Finally, at the very end, he was mottling and I was sitting there with my aunt who was holding his hand. I suddenly got this feeling that I should go get music. My aunt said that he had CDs that he often listened to in his car. I ran to the car, came back, and popped a CD in. I had no idea what CD I put in, but just as I pressed play, I really felt we should pray. This felt like the time because his breathing was changing. As the music played, he took his last breath. It was one deep inhale, then he exhaled.
As he took his last breath, as we were sitting there, the music skipped mid-song to a completely different track. It skipped to track number 13 from track number one or two. I had no shuffle on, no button was pressed. The computer was over there, his body was here, and we were holding his hands. My aunt had this huge smile on her face and started crying, five, six seconds after he took his last breath. It was the song they danced to on their first date.
The space we hold for people as they're dying is such a powerful space.”
Yes, yes it is, Justin. We couldn’t agree more.
Watch the entire conversation here.