Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Martha Velasco-Whetsell

Committee Members

Steven L. Baumann

Carole A. Baraldi

Claudette V. Gorden

Violet M. Malinski

Subject Categories

Nursing | Pediatric Nursing | Philosophy


Gadamer, Hermeneutics, Qualitative, Rogers' Science of Unitary Human Beings, Settecase-Wu Conceptual Guide, Text Interpretation


Yearly, approximately 500,000 children live with life-limiting conditions in the United States; 50,000 die. Yet, details regarding children’s days of living as dying are unknown. The aim of this qualitative hermeneutic study is to gain understanding of the phenomenon of living as a dying child. A Gadamerian-inspired approach was implemented to underpin the study, and to analyze poetic text to address the research question: What is it to be living as a dying child? The text sample included 499 poems written by Mattie J. T. Stepanek, a dying child. The Settecase-Wu Conceptual Guide was developed and implemented to ensure accuracy of the hermeneutic process application, and to provide a decision trail for the research findings. Three themes regarding the phenomenon emerged from this hermeneutic analysis: tenderness, time, and transcendence. Rich descriptions with textual representation of these themes in the poetic sample illustrate a shared understanding of the phenomenon between this researcher and the author regarding living as a dying child. Trustworthiness of the findings is established. Examination of the themes through a Rogerian theoretical lens enables application of the themes in Nursing Practice. Implications for Nursing, limitations and strengths of the study, recommendations for further Nursing research, and reflection of the researcher’s experience conclude the study.