Gone From My Sight

There is a great booklet about the dying experience that we use in our hospice for families. The booklet is called “Gone From My Sight,” and it’s helped many families through these difficult and unknowing times. I have had 100% positive feedback. There is a great poem at the end that I always like to go back to from time to time.

I am standing upon the seashore. A ship at my side spreads her white sails to the morning breeze and starts for the blue ocean. She is an object of beauty and strength. I stand and watch her until at length she hangs like a speck of white cloud just where the sea and sky come to mingle with each other.

Then someone at my side says: “There, she is gone!”

“Gone Where?”

Gone from my sight. That is all. She is just as large in mast and hull and spar as she was when she left my side and she is just as able to bear her load of living freight to her destined port.

Her diminished size is in me, not in her. And just at the moment when someone at my side says: “There, she is gone!” there are other eyes watching her coming, and other voices ready to take up the glad shout: “Here she comes!”

And that is dying.
-Henry Van Dyke


24 thoughts on “Gone From My Sight

  1. I also found Henry van Dyke’s poem, “There is No Death” comforting and thought provoking. This poem made such an impression on me that I quoted van Dyke to conclude my book, “Dying: Finding Comfort and Guidance in a Story of a Peaceful Passing.” This book is available through amazon or at http://www.passingpeacefully.com. There are many other useful resources listed on that website.

    My local hospice also uses Barbara Karnes’ booklet, “Gone from my Sight.” This 14 page booklet describes behaviors typical of one to three months before death, one to two weeks before death, days or hours before death, and minutes before death. It’s available from Barbara Karnes, RN, PO Box 189, Depoe Bay, OR 97341.

  2. I usually hate things like that as being sentimental – but that expresses what I keep trying to communicate. Thank you.
    Something I find strange – maybe as a foreigner – is that a nation so religion-orientated as the Americans seem to be has such a problem with allowing people to die. It is, after all, what we are born to do.

  3. Wow. My mom is in hospice care right now and I posted this same poem from her room while in the hospital last night. I remembered it from my work in pastoral care, but couldn’t remember the author. Google to the rescue!

    Thank you so much for the work that you do. Right now the compassion and understanding of the hospice nurses and attendants is really helping my sister and I make it through. It’s a big relief after all the hustle and bustle of the ICU with it’s noisy machines and sometimes indifferent and surprisingly lackadaisical attendants.

  4. Hospice was wonderful for my sister,her husband John.I would like a copy of the book to help me Though this journey of death please,

  5. Thank you for providing the poem and references. When my sweetheart was ill with kidney failure and diabetic complications, one of his friends read the timeline list and poem to me over the phone while we were in the hospital. It helped verify the inevitable even though I had pretty much figured it out a long time ago.

    What makes it even more relevant is that the friend watched his sister die, exhibiting all the listed behaviors, and he reports that several other friends mentioned that their loved ones passed on in the same manner.

    My heart goes out to anyone going through this situation. I hope the memories you have will be peaceful and loving, and that there will be no family strife.

    • God bless you and thank you for the feedback. I do like the book because it has so few pages but is very powerful and the poem by Henry Van Dyke is a great way to end it.

  6. I was given the poem from hospice when my mom had her heavenly promotion also….it was such a comfort. I now forwarded to a co worker. Thanks for the help in comforting her!!!

    • It’s always my pleasure to help others in any way. If spreading this poem comforts others I am happy. Thank you for sharing.

  7. Hi. I am a registered dietitian often finding myself being the healthcare professional to discuss the benefits of withholding, withdrawing artificial nutrition and hydration at end of life. I also discuss death and dying and end of life and the benefits of decreased oral intake. I was hoping you had educational materials I can utilize for patients and their families to help them understand. Thank you. My name is Nicole Dell’Aquila and email is blaise0220@yahoo.com.

    • Nicole, thank you for work and your compassion to go the extra mile to educate families about withdrawing and withholding at the end-of-life. I know it’s much easier to just present a feeding tube as the only option as these discussions take time and patience. I will point you to two sites.
      1. The Coalition for Compassionate Care of California has a great hand-out on feeding. Here is the link:

      2. Go to the website http://www.advancecareplanning.webs.com and click on the tab “patients and families,” then scroll down and look for a link to the book “Hard Choices for Loving People.” There is a chapter in that book dedicated to this topic. It is well written in a way families can understand. I’ll also shoot this same information to your email. Please let me know if I can be of any other assistance.

  8. Last March 26, 2012, my sister left our sight. I was given this book 4 days before my sister passed. It was so helpful (as was the unbelievable and indescribable care my sister received) and now, at this current time, my family is going through this experience again with my brother. I cannot even begin to describe the intensity of compounded grief. This pamphlet is so healthy and comforting.

    • Fran, thank you for your entry. I can’t say enough how much I like the book and how many people are comforted by such a simple well written book. My heart goes out to you in losing two close family members in a short period of time. If you need any assistance or have any questions please email me at palliativecaremd@yahoo.com. I wish comfort and peace to you and your family.
      Hospice Physician

  9. I stumbled upon this informative web site and was so pleased to read the positive comments about my booklet Gone From My SIght. I thought you might find my web site and blog interesting. http://www.gonefrommysight.com. I write short, informative articles on end of life issues. You can also order any of our materials from the web site. Blessings! Barbara Karnes, RN

    • Barbara, it’s an honor to have you comment on my blog. I’m glad you are able to see the positive impact your vision has created in the form of “Gone From My Sight.” People often don’t realize there are other great booklets to help families benefit through this difficult process. I do highly encourage everyone to visit your website and take advantage of the other books and booklets. I also use the book “The Final Act of Living” as a teaching tool for medical students and nursing students when they rotate with me in hospice and palliative care. Thank you for your contribution to our specialty and the difference you ‘ve made in patients and families lives.

  10. Is there someone I need to get permission from to use part of the poem (starting with “and just at the moment”) in the dedication of my novella “Here and There?” I was given the pamphlet and was referred to the book “Final Gifts” when I volunteered at Hospice for a short time in the ’90’s. Both are a great comfort. I hope my book will be a catalyst for tolerance and for acceptance of the diversity of belief systems in our world.

  11. Wow! I just read some more comments. Judith Underwood entered in 2010 that she used part of the poem to end her book. Perhaps she will see this and reply about my copyright concern.

  12. Hospice was so good to my Dad John Elmore who passed away on June 3rd, 2015. My Mom and I are forever grateful for our Angels. They provided the book “Gone From My Sight” it was spot on about everything right up to the day he left our sight. My heart goes out to anyone who cares for a dying person. To get so attached to someone then they leave us. We found comfort know he was in no pain but I still am human and a little selfish. Miss you dad I see you when I see you

    • Kylene, thank you for sharing. My condolences. I’m glad the book helped you and I’m glad to see that Barbara Karnes, the author of the book, also responded with a comment. Peace to you and your family.

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