Dying Woman Invites Readers to Join Her on Her Journey Through Hospice to Eternity

‘Brooklyn’s Journey Home’ is perhaps the most inspiring Facebook page I’ve ever seen.

Facebook page for ‘Brooklyn’s Journey Home’
Facebook page for ‘Brooklyn’s Journey Home’ (photo: Screen Capture / Facebook.com)

It’s hard to face one’s imminent death and to remain calm and collected; and yet, getting ready to say goodbye to earthly things is an important step in growing closer to God. Memento mori — Latin for “Remember you must die” — is a time-honored way of refocusing on the Last Things. Since most of us cannot know the time or the day when we will die, memento mori teaches us to go about our duties without wasting time, and to be spiritually prepared to stand before our Creator. It also reminds us that when death comes, our earthly possessions and professional titles will be of no value. 

The idea of memento mori isn’t new. In ancient Rome, the philosopher and dramatist Seneca understood that life is fleeting, and urged his readers:

Let us prepare our minds as if we’d come to the very end of life. Let us postpone nothing. Let us balance life’s books each day. … The one who puts the finishing touches on their life each day is never short of time.

Brooklyn Salisbury, a 25-year-old Christian woman from Colorado, gave us an example to follow in 2022, touching the hearts of her more than 176,000 Facebook followers with her very personal memento mori story. Brooklyn had been diagnosed with Hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (hEDS), a disorder of the connective tissue. One of her co-morbidities was a rare and often fatal illness, mastocytosis. Some accounts report that her deadly illness was the result of delays in diagnosis and treatment of Lyme Disease. On March 1, Brooklyn’s earthly journey ended, but her readers had learned to love her — to appreciate her deep faith and love of God, and her bravery in the face of grave illness.

Brooklyn opened her “Brooklyn’s Final Journey” Facebook page on Dec. 28 with a blunt report: “I’m starting hospice.” She explained the goals of hospice and offered a nutshell description of her two years battling a connective tissue disorder. “With much prayer, Godly counsel, and medical advice,” she said, “God has made the way forward clear. It’s time to go home.”

Over the next two months, Brooklyn wrote about her ordeal with faith and confidence and an interminable optimism. “Honestly,” she said, “I left my doctor’s office with a giant smile on my face. My heart is overjoyed contemplating being in the fullness of God’s glory (1 Corinthians 13:12). Conversely, I have been grieving with friends and family, as they must say goodbye. Death is awful. But, for the believer, it’s just the beginning. We will start the process of taking me off medications on January 17th. I will die by the end of February.”

There also emerged Brooklyn’s sarcastic side. Describing the experience of being intubated while in the ICU, Brooklyn wrote, “If you’ve never had a tube shoved down your throat and into your lungs, let me tell you, it’s not comfortable. And you drool. More than a Saint Bernard over bacon. Or, as I wrote on a piece of paper while on the vent, ‘I’m drooling more than Tom drools over Jerry.’”

She posted a picture of herself in the trauma bay of her local hospital, waiting to be admitted to a private room. “I’ve taken many licks at death,” she wrote, “as if mortality is a melting ice cream cone. Though not as sweet. Definitely not served from a musical truck.”

And always ready to laugh at herself, Brooklyn laughed off the inconveniences that accompanied her illness. “One pesky thing about having feeding tubes,” she admitted, “is leaking. One minute life is chill, the next you’re covered in feeding tube formula. At church. In the front row. While your feed pump alarm is sounding. In the middle of the sermon. Not ideal. Can I get an amen?”

Shining through her lighthearted self-deprecation and snarky jokes, Brooklyn had an important message to share. Brooklyn’s greatest desire, according to her sister, was for people to hear about Jesus and to know without a shadow of a doubt where they will go when they die. 

Brooklyn’s catechesis took several forms: Sometimes she offered helpful advice. “Do something. Do something with your life. Even if it’s small. But don’t do it for you. Do it for Him.” Sometimes she was a cheerleader, encouraging her readers’ spiritual growth. “Read every day. More than 15 minutes. Spiritual matters are more important than physical (John 6:63, Colossians 3:2). Bible time satisfies our soul like food satisfies our bellies (Deuteronomy 8:3, Philippians 2:16). The Bible is like bacon. But better.”

In one of her last posts to the Facebook page, Brooklyn mused about her approaching death. “I’ve got great news!” she reported. “The good news? Assurance of eternal life. I’ve gotten many messages from people expressing their fear of death. There’s fear in not knowing our final fate. But I know of a way we can be sure of our soul’s fate.”

And in her last post, Brooklyn touched hearts by comparing her approaching death with Jesus’ death on the cross. “The Apostles’ descriptions of Jesus’ crucifixion are a gut punch for anyone. Now, dying myself, the description of how my Savior died is so much more potent. … I’m dying in a bougie adjustable pillow-top bed. He died naked and exposed amongst criminals. I get kind notes and cards from friends and strangers alike. He was hurled insults and abuse. My best friends visit me, His abandoned Him, denying even knowing Him (John 19, Mark 14-15).”

When she died on March 1, Brooklyn Salisbury left a legacy of faith and good humor that continues to inspire. She follows in the footsteps of another strong young woman, Nightbirde (real name Jane Marczewski), who passed away Feb. 19 at the age of 31. Nightbirde captured attention as a contestant on America’s Got Talent, performing her original composition titled It’s OK. Like Brooklyn, Nightbirde faced her terminal illness with optimism and faith. Together, the two young women taught us how to die, but also how to live. May God welcome them home.

Horace Vernet, “The Angel of Death,” 1851

Don’t Wait to Cram for Your ‘Final Exam’

“Each man receives his eternal retribution in his immortal soul at the very moment of his death, in a particular judgment that refers his life to Christ: either entrance into the blessedness of heaven — through a purification or immediately — or immediate and everlasting damnation.” (CCC 1022)