Life lessons from the dying: How to embrace love and purpose

Life can change in an instant, which is why it's important to live in the moment

Jen Cueva avatar

by Jen Cueva |

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“To the well-organized mind, death is but the next great adventure.”― J.K. Rowling, in “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

Working as a hospice nurse before my diagnosis of pulmonary hypertension (PH), I was at the bedside of many people in their final days and hours. It was a bittersweet experience that taught me the importance of living life to its fullest.

In this column, I’ll share some of what I learned about living from those who were dying. These lessons continue to shape my outlook on life today. Of course, having to manage PH has made them even more impactful.

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Living in the moment, with gratitude

As a hospice nurse, I witnessed how quickly life can change. In an instant, someone’s health might deteriorate or they could receive a terminal diagnosis. This fact taught me the importance of living in the present moment and appreciating every experience, no matter how small.

PH symptoms, I’ve learned by experience, tend to wax and wane, so I work hard to enjoy the moments when they’re managed well. Instead of constantly worrying about the future or dwelling on the past, I’ve learned to appreciate and savor each day as it comes.

When faced with death, many people realize that what they once thought was important doesn’t matter as much in the long run. They often regret wasting time and energy on trivial things. This lesson has taught me to prioritize what matters and avoid getting caught up in insignificant details.

Calling and working with pharmacies and insurance companies can be overwhelming, and people there aren’t always responsive or kind. But they may be experiencing a difficult season in their own lives. Plus, I’ve learned to let go of grudges, forgive quickly, and focus on the bigger picture.

In many patients’ final days, as they reflected on their lives, one thing they often talked about was their relationships. They regretted not spending enough time with loved ones and wished they’d made more meaningful connections. This perception taught me to prioritize my relationships and make time for the most important people.

When I’m feeling my best, and even on the not-so-good days, I want to be surrounded by loved ones. I cherish each special relationship that is dear to my heart.

In our society, vulnerability is often seen as a weakness. In the face of death, however, it’s essential for healing and finding peace. Many patients I’ve worked with opened up to me about their fears, regrets, and hopes. That taught me to embrace vulnerability and be honest with my emotions.

Maybe that’s what’s helped me open up and share my story of PH and coexisting conditions. It’s not easy to be vulnerable, but it’s worth it if it helps just one person!

Living a life of purpose

One common theme among those who were dying was wishing they’d lived more purposefully. They regretted not pursuing their passions or making an impact in the world. This reflection taught me to live a life of purpose and to make a difference however I can. That’s why I now work hard to be a chronic illness advocate and a voice for others.

Writing my column and moderating the Pulmonary Hypertension News Forums give me an opportunity to reach others in the PH community who might benefit from them. I may not work in nursing anymore, but I nurse the PH community in several other ways. Knowing that someone feels less alone and less frightened and knows they have support means the world to me.

I’m grateful to BioNews, the parent company of this website, for the opportunity and the platform to reach others in the PH community to educate, support, and empower them.

One of the biggest lessons I learned from those who were dying was to be grateful for every moment. They reminded me that life is precious and shouldn’t be taken for granted. Even during difficult times, there’s always a reason to be grateful. It’s important to me that I share these lessons with the PH community and help others find moments of gratitude.

Note: Pulmonary Hypertension News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Pulmonary Hypertension News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to pulmonary hypertension.


MamaBear007 avatar


Excellent article, Jen! Thank you for sharing the wisdom you learned while working with hospice patients.

Jen Cueva avatar

Jen Cueva

Hey there, Mama Bear! I just wanted to say a big thank you for taking the time to read this column. Your kind words and feedback mean the world to me! It's amazing to know that our readers like you not only enjoy reading but also take the time to share their thoughts.

Wishing you and your family all the best this holiday season and in 2024! Cheers!

Take care and many hugs- Jen

James B. Ethier avatar

James B. Ethier

Beautiful article, Jen. Living a life with purpose is a gift that you are so good to share with our community. To have lived in that manner will make the last days for us much easier to deal with. Thank you!

Jen Cueva avatar

Jen Cueva

Hey James! It warms my heart to hear how much you enjoyed this piece. Some people have mentioned how working with hospice patients can be sad, but personally, I find it to be a deeply rewarding experience - bittersweet, you know? The life lessons I've learned from these patients are truly priceless.

You're such a kind soul, my PHriend. I'm incredibly grateful that I get to help others like yourself in our community. If you haven't already, I'd love for you to join us on the newly designed website. I'm actually one of the forum moderators. Here's the link in case you'd like to join in on the conversation.

PH News Forums

Wishing you and your loved ones a joyful holiday season and abundant blessings in 2024! Take care, my PHriend.

Fay avatar


Thanks so much for posting this Jen. I have PAH and thanks to years of doing hospice care I can so relate to everything you’ve shared. I am currently being with a friend who is dying and I am so grateful that I’m not afraid to be with her as she goes through this process. I’ve had PAH for the last 9 years and I’ve developed a meditation practice to help me deal with life stressors. It also helps me to let go of grudges and resentments. I’m so grateful that you posted this.


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