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In Our Hearts of Hearts We Know; Facing Illness and Death


Guest articles > In Our Hearts of Hearts We Know; Facing Illness and Death


by: Stephanie Rachel Alt


“In my heart of hearts' means that you know or have known that something is true even if you have not been willing to admit it to yourself or others.”

On the deepest level I believe we instinctively know when our health is in jeopardy and death is threatening; when our life force or the lives of our loved ones are in serious danger. There are also times when in spite of a diagnosis and prognoses, in our heart of hearts there is a knowing which for lack of a better explanation is, that it just isn’t time.

Are we responding to more than our personal investment and hope? Do we unconsciously sense the will battling to survive? Can we tell when the soul is ready to depart? I have had both of these experiences which I will share in this post, and I welcome any similar stories you would like to relay.

I remember the days before my father died. I was in the hospital after giving birth to my son and my father was in the hospital recovering from brain surgery. We were miles away from one another. I believed or maybe I really wanted to believe the neurologist, when he told me my father was recovering. I realize now that I was in denial. I buffered what was going on wrapping and insulating my self in the glory of motherhood. I was being self protective. But I vividly remember a feeling of desperation and exhaustion. It was like chasing after someone you just can’t catch. Hard as it was to face, I knew my father was drifting away. I sensed that he had given up the fight.

In my heart of hearts I felt very different last week when I thought death had come knocking at my family’s door again. I received a letter from my sister’s social worker that her health was rapidly declining. She has a severe seizure disorder and lives in a facility for developmentally delayed adults in upstate New York. Needless to say the news was devastating. I live on the west coast with my daughter who is a sophomore in High School. When I phoned and spoke with my sister’s doctor, I began to ready myself for the inevitable. Everything felt juxtaposed. The last time I visited Lois, she was healthy, alert, and stable…For some reason I immediately flashed back to a time many years ago when in order to control the continuous brain seizing she was having, they gave my sister large doses of medicine which caused her to become non responsive…I asked the doctor if it was possible that Lois was being over medicated again. It was the first thought that popped into my mind. It was the only clear thought I had through twenty four hours of uncertainty…I decided to wait out the night before making arrangements to travel east. In the meantime I spoke with my sister’s former social worker whom I know and trust, to specify my wishes in the event that Lois died. The following morning we spoke again and she gave me the hospital’s phone number. I was connected to the floor nurse and asked about my sister’s condition. “Your sister is improving. She ate all her breakfast and is alert”. “So, she’s not dying?” I asked. The nurse paused before answering. She seemed confused by my question. “The last thing I heard was she was unconscious and failing” I said. The nurse understood. “Your sister was on a medication called Depokate which created high levels of ammonia in her system. The elevated ammonia level caused toxemia, which made her non responsive. She has been taken off Depakote and is receiving treatment for the toxemia and she is taking new medication for her seizures. She has not had a seizure since…

I found the lyrics to Bob Dylan’s song “Trust Yourself”. I have included the first two stanzas which seem fitting to end this post with...

Trust yourself
Trust yourself to do the things that only you know best
Trust yourself
Trust yourself to do what’s right and not be second-guessed
Don’t trust me to show you beauty
When beauty may only turn to rust
If you need somebody you can trust, trust yourself

Trust yourself
Trust yourself to know the way that will prove true in the end
Trust yourself
Trust yourself to find the path where there is no if and when
Don’t trust me to show you the truth
When the truth may only be ashes and dust
If you want somebody you can trust, trust yourself


I welcome your questions and comments. Feel free to email me at: If you are in need of assistance or would like more information about me and the services I offer visit my website:

“Fine-tuning your intuition safeguards your future and opens doors to the extraordinary”. Stephanie Rachel Alt, MS

Contributor: Stephanie Rachel Alt

Published here on: 28-Sep-10

Classification: Development



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