Rose McWhorter is a gifted empath who can “hear” and “see” things that others cannot. She works as a hospice nurse for the largest hospice in Denver, Colorado. She’s on the elite afterhours team that responds to crisis and death calls for pediatric and adult patients. She’s a Celt and a descendant of female mystics and warriors. Rose is strong but weary. She’s haunted by her failure to sit with her mother when she died.
The Whisper begins with Rose sitting at the table where her mother used to sit. She’s charting a death that occurred at her mother’s former nursing home. Rose visits the home often and is confronted with her guilt and reminded of the first time she heard the whisper. While grieving at her mother’s bedside, she heard her deceased mother whisper “be a nurse.” Rose follows the directive and, after a few years, becomes a hospice nurse.
Her workplace, once non-profit, was acquired by a for-profit organization and is starting to fall apart. She encounters numerous abuses, from staffing shortages to workplace bullying and violence, resulting in Rose becoming worn down by the stress and the deathwork. After a hard death, she’s decided to quit her job, but changes her mind when she hears the whisper of her deceased mother telling her to “remember her lessons.”
Rose returns home, pondering the command, and activates her Gift. She’s led to open her mother’s Bible. Inside, she finds a card with a verse about love. She decides to use the verse as a writing prompt in her journal to review the lessons she’s learned working in hospice. The first line of the verse is, “Love is patient.” That night she called to help a patient who couldn’t breathe, but the actual mission was comforting his grandson by being patient and listening to him, helping him express his love for the grandfather through a piece of art. As she moves through the weeks and months, she is challenged more and more with difficult and sometimes dangerous calls, all while her job erodes.
One night, Rose attends to a patient who reveals a gun and his suicidal intentions. Rose comes perilously close to death but is able to talk her patient down. Her husband Dennis became enraged, demanding that she resign. Her actions resulted in a two-day suspension for removing the weapon. Regardless of the pressure, she’s determined to see the prompts through to find out what she needs to learn.
Rose continues working the afterhours, revisiting parts of her past, further reinforcing her lessons. She visits a man whose son is dying of AIDS. She sees a gun on his table, reports it, but leaves it behind, per her directive. The patient’s father later uses it to hold a nurse and CNA hostage after his son’s death. The father sexually assaults the nurse, but the CNA escapes. The father ends his own life. Dennis again demands that she quit as she was supposed to be on the call. Rose initially lies to him, but after a call where a wealthy man forces her to help him with his suicide or risk losing her job, Rose breaks.
After the call, Rose breaks down and hears the whisper say, “almost.” Rose decides that she’s had enough. The next day she works a double-back, rolling into a benign day shift. She begins to have second thoughts. She needs to hang on just a little bit longer, intuitively sensing that her lessons were almost complete.
That day Rose receives a phone call from her brother, Kurt, that their brother, Ed had a severe heart attack and is on life support. Kurt asks her to take the lead. Rose is hesitant, based on her past with Ed, but calls the hospital to find out that her brother is on the brink of death. The hospital needs a family member present since his girlfriend didn’t have any rights to his care. Time is short, and his body is failing. Rose is heartbroken. Her brother, Ed, is 1000 miles away.
Rose wrestles with the fact that the hospital could forbid her to help Ed because of their estranged relationship. Ed was a criminal and attempted to harm her son, and they hadn’t spoken in years, despite being very close before the incident. Rose anguished between being a nurse and a sister. She’s afraid that she wouldn’t be welcome or that she wasn’t good enough or strong enough to help him. She’d failed so many others.
The whisper tells her that she must go. She realizes that she needs to be a nurse for her brothers and call on her ancestors’ strength. Rose is the family matriarch, and it’s her duty. She’s the only one with the skills to help. Rose and Dennis leave to drive across the country, racing against time. On the drive, she’s able to resolve multiple complications due to her experience. She arrives and falls into the role of a hospice nurse. She learns that Ed was devoid of brain activity and learned of a congenital brain defect, concluding that her brother was on the autism spectrum, just like her son Wolfgang. It is a moment of reckoning, explaining his erratic behavior. However, she and her brothers painfully decide to remove supports. Ed was gone.
Rose provides a peaceful passing for her brother. When he dies, she hears the whisper that he is her final patient. On the way to collect his ashes, she discovers, via text message, that she lost her job but is unburdened. She realizes that her final lesson was, “love never fails.” As a result of her lessons, she provided the greatest comfort for her brother and her family, regaining their love and inclusion and solving the mystery of Ed’s behavior.
A few months after his death, Rose was attending Catechumante with her son, Wolfie. The Dean asked the confirmands to think about how God worked in their lives, leading them on a path without their knowing. The question startles her into realizing that the whisper she heard was God and that her path to becoming a nurse was to serve her brother. All of her suffering and her work were lessons to learn to help him pass. Rose finally feels peace and forgives herself. She realizes that she was enough all along.