PP Book Review: The Art of Dying

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  1. Michael says:

    Rob may stop by today so if you have any questions on this topic for him, write them here.

  2. Em says:

    finally a topic that i don’t feel like i’m butting in when i comment ๐Ÿ™‚

    by the time you’ve lived 3/4 of a century you’ve said good bye to a lot of people – truth is, even tho life can get bogged down in those shoulda-woulda-couldas, in those final hours, you’re ready to go and accepting that it’s your time (not talking about untimely deaths).

    as a care-giver of a loved one, i’ve never said good-bye without feeling that there was more i should have done, noticed, said… we, too, can get bogged down in shoulda-woulda-couldas

    recently i said good-by to my mother in the nursing home , praying – i wish i had bathed her instead of acceding to the request to ‘step out’ while they ‘prepared her’
    and i said good bye to my husband at home in his own bed…. it had been a day of family and staying on top of the pain with much morphine… i told him that everyone was going to try to get a little rest and that i was going to lie down (beside him) and we both should try to get some sleep, too.
    i have the most beautiful daughters that any woman could ever hope to have and my youngest, the nurse, was sleeping in the living room and, like a mother, she sensed something and came in to check on her dad – he’d quietly gone on to be with the Lord., i wish i’d been awake to hold his hand and pray him over…
    God is so caring and so in charge ๐Ÿ˜‰
    death is not a friend, it is, however, very final – when it’s done, let it be as God wills it and, maybe live yours like you’re gonna die ๐Ÿ™‚

    just saying – God keep

  3. I think I need to read this book. My wife and I were talking about this very subject this morning as we were de-briefing our recent encounter with death. The context for us was the Joy Jesus spoke of in John 15. We cam to the conclusion that we had an American sanitized understanding of what Jesus meant by the word Joy. We saw death as something to be avoided (I still do!) but the truth is it comes to all of us.

    I am still processing it all but I can say without a doubt that I experienced two things as I knocked for the first time at death’s door: Aloneness and fear. What I felt in these two areas is indescribable. My fatih was not driven by emotion but by sheer determination. I think I understand a little better what Jesus may have experienced the moment he cried from the cross “My God my God why have you forsaken me”.

  4. Believe says:

    On Rob’s Blog:

    “As Jesus neared his death, he was no stranger to spiritual anguish. Jesusโ€™ fourth words from the Cross reflect this. โ€œWhy have you abandoned me?โ€ he asks God.

    Jesus carried a burden that none of us will: the sins of the world. His spiritual torment, as a man who had fully communed with his God, was also unique. We will never know full communion with God only to have it cut off. But for a patient receiving a diagnosis of a terminal illness, it can seem as if God is absent. Here is the temptation of despair. If God is absent, what hope is there? Jesus acknowledges his spiritual state, but in doing so he shows us how to work through despair. Honestly dealing with God, even when we feel forsaken by him, is the first step.”

    Honesty about despair or fear of death. This resonates with me, personally.

    Even Jesus our Christ felt deep despair when dying on the Cross…even questioning God His Father.

    Even though I am a young man, I had serious bouts of fear about dying in my past. I believe that a point Rob makes well…that Jesus submitted to God the Father…even in death and dying…is poignant.

    I don’t live in fear of dying any longer. I have no control over it and must trust the Lord that when it’s my time, it’s my time…and trust that He’ll give me the strength to deal with it at that time. Death is inevitable. No amount of worry will change that fact. When it comes, it comes. I cling to the hope of Eternity…and simply pray that God will have mercy on me and allow me to die with the opportunity to prepare and be with loved ones. However, if He wills differently, I trust He will give me peace and comfort in my time of fear and despair.

    Rob, in all of your research about Dying, what is the biggest issue that confronts those facing death?

    What would you describe as dying well? In practical terms.

    What would you describe as dying poorly?

    How can loved ones of those who are dying help their loved ones die well?

  5. Michael says:

    Em,

    Well said…we need to hear you.

  6. Michael says:

    Steve,

    Rob does an exceptional job of teaching and sharing without being maudlin or depressing.
    in my opinion all pastors should have a copy of this as well.

  7. Travis says:

    Michael,
    Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think it was Richard Baxter who used to say that a minister’s job was to prepare those under his care for a “good death.” Some how the topic of death, and preparing for death has gotten lost in the church. All that to say, I think I’ll order the book!

  8. Michael says:

    Travis,

    You are correct.
    Spurgeon imagined himself in the casket until death held no fear for him,
    The Puritans prepared themselves and their sheep for the last journey,
    We’ve lost that…

  9. Em says:

    Steve, A few years ago I went thru very similar emotions when a mammagram found a tumor.
    It was just the up close and personal fact of death. For those few weeks it was between me and this body which ultimately was not my eternal friend. Death felt like that clanging of the jail cell door in the movies.
    It turned into a gift from God as I’ve looked at this mortal body differently ever since….

  10. Babylon's Dread says:

    My friends are so much into healing I think I would have to smack them to get them to leave me alone and let me die. Seriously, I have told my wife that if someone just wants to come pray for my healing tell them to do it from their own house. In other words when it comes time to die, I think that I will want to have friends help me cross over with peace and dignity and not have a bunch of people begging for a last minute stay of execution…

    Ok I know that takes away my ‘raising the dead’ merit badge but sheesh, a little balance please… So I figure I should probably read this book.

    Oh yeah I also do not want a bunch of people commiserating on why God ‘took me’ and fawning silly ‘he’s in a better place’ comforts.

    Hell I think I want a death reformation…

    All I know is that Jesus is pretty good at ruining funerals… and he will ruin ours as well.

    Death is swallowed up in victory.

  11. Believe says:

    …stated in a way only Dread can. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Good stuff.

  12. Another Voice says:

    Some thoughts:

    1) I will buy and read this book. I expect to learn and be a better pastor for doing so. Please note, I am not dumping on the book!!! I also write with all due respect for those among us (like Hopkins) who are going through such a trial at an unexpected time in life – far too early.

    2) I believe in the pretrib rapture, but too many who share that doctrinal persuasion have certainly emphasized the rapture with a current events prophetic bent more than they should, often at the expense of teaching on death. This is a “last 100 years” phenomenom, and one I strongly disapprove of.

    3a) At the same time, most of the epistles seem to be about how we are to live. Thus, I would take strong exception to the idea that a minister’s primary job TODAY is to prepare the people under his care for a good death. That is certainly a role towards the elderly, but I would argue that the gospel prepares us for a SUDDEN death – and that must be proclaimed to all age groups.

    3b) I have found that messages that emphasize death and heaven repeatedly, to a younger audience (and by younger I mean under 50-60, not just Gen X or Y) really fall flat. And frankly, if they are saved, I understand why. Look at the discussion yesterday on the state of the nation and the state of the youth. Most Christians in my ministerial care are dealing with economic or/and relationship issues, struggling with their own sins of the flesh, a lot of medical problems that are not life threatening etc.

    4) Medical technology and other advances have pushed death further back than the Puritans or other early Christians could have dreamed. The simple fact is that if one survives their teens, they statistically have at minimum a few decades ahead of them. In centuries past, as Hobbes (born 1588) wrote, life was brutish and short.

  13. Em
    Sounds like you truly understand that alone and fearful feeling. I feel that in many ways I am experiencing PTS. I am processing everything…not where you are yet but threads like this and Michael Spencer’s book “Mere Churchianity” are helpful for me.

  14. Tim says:

    Em & Dread both…well said.

  15. Rob Moll says:

    Hi Believer,

    Fear of death is normal, because, I think, that death is abnormal. It’s not part of God’s creation. I think the biggest issue confronting everyone is achieving the willingness to die. Therapeutically, the term is acceptance. But I don’t think Christians have to ‘accept’ death. We don’t have to agree to it, because it is still, as Paul said, the last enemy. However, we do need to be willing to die. Jesus was, even though he asked that the cup be passed from him. He was not eager to go to the Cross, but he was willing, even determined to do so once he knew that was what the Father wanted.

    In practical terms, being willing to die is the first step in the good death. First, it allows us to stop fighting death, whether through medicine or other means. We can use medicine of course. There’s nothing wrong with medical care when we are not using it as our sole hope for longer life. When we realize that death is inevitable and we stop fighting it, we can turn our attention to spiritual preparation. Life with God will require some preparation. The dying process, when we let is, allows us to do that. Also, the good death includes an expression of our faith in God. We tell others that we trust in him. And we tell our loved ones the importance of their presence in our lives. Good deaths are not solitary events (though the moment of death may be). The dying process involves churches, families, and communities. This is because the practice of the good death, the Christian death, is instructive to everyone living. We learn what is important and valuable in life when we witness a death.

    To me, a poor death misses these things. The dying person never comes to grips with life’s end and so family and friends can’t say goodbye. The person can’t prepare spiritually. Usually this also means being hooked up to machines in a hospital because that is the only way to try to avoid death.

    How to help others die well? Well, my book is for people helping others who are near the end of life. I think it would be a good place to start. But the bottom line is to be present with the person. The most common reaction is to avoid someone who is grieving or terminally ill. You can’t make people prepare for death or tell them how to die if they don’t want to hear it. But you can be with them. Being present is good for you and the dying person. A person’s body may shut down, but the person is still alive and still in need of purpose and meaning and human contact. Presence allows for this. For the visitor, it teaches us what is important in life. It’s an incredibly meaningful experience, and I’ve never known anyone who was with someone near the end of their life who was afterward afraid of death. God is there, and being present with the dying allows us to experience him.

  16. Captain Kevin says:

    AV, regarding your #3, wouldn’t teaching our people to live well be synonymous with teaching them to die well. If we live our lives with a strong trust in and obedience to our Lord, we will be prepared to exit this world with joy.

  17. Captain Kevin says:

    Rob, thanks for stopping by. Your book is now on my wish list.

  18. Rob Moll says:

    Another Voice,
    I don’t think there is any distinction at all between teaching someone to live well and teaching them to die well. They are one and the same thing. The latin phrase is ars moriendi is ars vivendi. The art of dying is the art of living. People may not listen well to this truth. And they may live and die poorly. But we would all do well–that is live better, happier lives–to attend more funerals, visit the dying, care for the sick, etc.
    Rob

  19. Michael says:

    Rob,

    Two questions;

    1. What role should the pastor play in preparing people for death…before death is imminent?
    2. If you could expand on people who are close to death seeing or knowing things they shouldn’t know and seeing “the other side”?

  20. Kevin H says:

    Rob,

    Glad you have stopped by. I have a question, if you don’t mind. I have not yet read your book, and maybe you address my question in it, but one of the excerpts Michael posted piqued my curiosity. You refer to “deathbed visions of the heavenly places”. My grandmother, who was a believer, passed away last summer and I was by her side during one of her last days when she apparently had some of these visions. She was hardly able to communicate at that point, but it seemed like she had some heavenly visions at a couple different points when I was there.

    Are these occurrences of “deathbed visions of the heavenly places” unique to Christians, or would other faiths claim the same of their dying members? I believe that one can only get to heaven if they have placed their faith in the real Jesus and are one of God’s elect. Regardless of that, I’m still curious if people of other faiths would also sometimes claim heavenly visions on the deathbed?

  21. Kevin H says:

    Just saw Michael’s second question. I guess mine would piggyback on that.

  22. Another Voice says:

    I donโ€™t think there is any distinction at all between teaching someone to live well and teaching them to die well. They are one and the same thing
    —————————————————————-
    OK Rob. I look forward to reading the book. I don’t understand our semantics here, but don’t expect you to explain it all here when you wrote a book about it! ๐Ÿ™‚

  23. papias says:

    Good subject for discussion – though uncomfortable.

    How do we discuss dying with others?

    A couple in my Sunday School class just lost their adult son due to an accident, and by the sounds of it, it was from his own undoing. He left a wife and baby.

  24. Michael says:

    Papias,

    Really, really, uncomfortable…good question, too.

  25. TonyP. says:

    I’m not sure that you can properly prepare someone for death. For some it may come as a welcome, but for others it comes as an enemy. How do you prepare someone for something that may or may not be beneficial (i.e. the end of a prolonged and painful illness)? And even for some that have endured a long time of pain and hardship find the idea of death abhorrent to them.

    Having watched someone breath his last at the end of a long hard bout with cancer, it was a blessing when he died, a blessing for him. But for his family, believers though they were, it was brutally difficult coming out the other side.

    So which death do you help prepare someone for? The long, slow, painful one or the easy, in-your-sleep one? How do you know which one will be coming their way? Is there a concrete one-size fits all preparation technique?

  26. Na'amah says:

    One of my life’s most precious gifts was the priviledge of having my father live in our home his last year of his life with his fight against cancer. It gave me and my children the time to celebrate his life, for them to see their mother as someone’s daughter and their testimony and prayers with him brought him finally to accept Christ as his Saviour.

  27. Another Voice says:

    Is there a concrete one-size fits all preparation technique?
    ————————————————–
    I would argue that NOTHING in ministry and service to the Lord EVER comes in a one-size fits all manner.

    That truism frankly was revolutionary to me when I really grasped it. It changed my relationship with the Holy Spirit completely.

  28. Rob Moll says:

    I’ll get back to posting in an hour or so. In the meantime, I’ll be on WLQV (Detroit) in about 10 minutes. Listen live here: http://www.godandculture.com/

  29. Michael says:

    “I would argue that NOTHING in ministry and service to the Lord EVER comes in a one-size fits all manner.”

    Amen and amen!

  30. papias says:

    I hope that no one thinks that there could be a concrete, one size fits all way to discuss death with someone. Of course we want to be open to the Spirit.

    But I would take this book and our discussion and filter my next conversation with someone about the subject. Anything that would help me give Spirit led answers to the questions of death is worthwhile for discussion.

    Rob, I look forward to your thoughts.

    Na mah – your 1;11 blessed me.

  31. TonyP. says:

    AV,

    Amen here as well.

  32. TonyP. says:

    Okay,

    Since I haven’t read the book, ๐Ÿ˜Ž , but am drawn to the topic:
    How do we approach preparing someone (or ourselves) to die well?

  33. paigemom says:

    Wow. I want this book for sure. Like Steve Hopkins and Em, I have had my own brush with cancer and the immediate facing my own mortality. It’s like having Darth Vadar in your head and house all the time.

    I agree with Steve in feeling like I had PTS that lingered for at least a year. I must say that in the midst of all the depressing conversations with doctors, I began to question my faith and all the stuff I had believed for so long. “Do I really believe this stuff?”

    It’s easy to say “I’m afraid of death” until it’s shoved in your face in the form of dismal statistics. The whole emphasis of scriptures became verses on eternal life and stories of resurrection, the appearance of saints after Jesus’ Resurrection, and the Mount Of Transfiguration where the long ‘dead’ Moses and Elijah appeared.

    Yes, life after life is definitely in the Bible…

    I have had the honor of sitting with both my parents at their deaths. I miss them.
    I miss the friends who have departed, too young IMO… Obits make me cry.

    I agree that modern medicine and the citified life have separated us from the ‘normal’ reality of life AND death.

    I want the book!

  34. paigemom says:

    Oops, My third paragraph should say ‘it’s easy to say “I’m NOT afraid of death”

  35. Michael says:

    Paigemom,

    Email me your physical address and I’ll send you my copy.

  36. Tim says:

    TonyP –
    It’s great to “see” you…it seems like ages.

  37. TonyP. says:

    Tim,

    Great to see you too.

  38. Frank Montenegro says:

    aaaaah death.

    Beginning in Oct of 2007, I experienced the passing of a total of 6 people I knew and loved, all in less than a year (as many of you may remember, my beloved first wife Julie was the first person I “lost”. Then My uncle albert 6 weeks after that. Then, my 93 year old grandmother. My good friends Bob Lewis, Larry Belcher. And finally, Julie’s Father Mr. Richard Marino (less than a year after Julie’s untimely passing) After experiencing so much grief in so short a period of time, I must say that I have been changed as a person. I have run the gamut of emotions and feelings. Anger, Regret, Sorrow, guilt, self blame, self doubt, more anger, depression, and even more anger. I found myself far away from God at times, and sometimes still do. But, there are moments of joy. With my new wife Sabrina. She is amazing. With my step-son Jesse, a very fine young man indeed. My little Princess Sophia (the gift that Julie entrusted me with)

    I have come to a few conclusions about life, and death. One of them is, that I don’t want to let all the recent tragedy in my life, cause me to harden my heart toward the suffering of others (do you know what I mean?) I don’t want to become callous. And lost inside my own feelings and emotions. So that i wind up so focused on my head trips, thus rendering myself useless to others. It’s very easy to do. It’s called being self-centered. I just want to live my life, enjoy my family, do the kind of work that i enjoy, eat good food, drink good beer (occasionally) and lay down under the desert sky at night with my beautiful Wife.

    God forgive me for judging others, and for holding back forgiveness to anyone. God forgive me for the cowardly remarks I made on this blog 4 years ago, under the name
    “a fly on the wall” I am sorry for the hurt and insult I caused, all because I didn’t have the guts to say it to their faces.

    To my friend Joe Sabolick: it doesn’t matter what anyone says about you, or if they choose to judge you for the rest of your life. God loves you, and is pleased with you.

    To pastor Chuck Smith: I have nothing but love and respect for you as a man of God. Thanks you so very much for all your kindness to my family and i during the 10 years I had the privilege of being on the KWVE staff. I am sorry for the cowardly way i went about making comments on this blog regarding the pay scale at KWVE.

    Richard McIntosh: I am so sorry for the comments I made about you back then on this blog. I didn’t know you. and had no right to make such terrible remarks. It was cowardly

    I am not that person anymore.

    To those who judged me (and you know who you are) I love and forgive you…

    When it’s time for me to die, then it’s time for me to die. period. I only hope and pray that those left behind will remember me with smiles and laughter through the tears. And that they’ll know that i loved them the best I could.

    do your best at all times beloved. you only get one shot.

    enough already.

    I Love You guys

    Frank Montenegro

  39. puzzletop says:

    I was watching Ken Burn’s Civil War and the soldiers ( both Union and Confederate) had a saying they used right before they died. They would ask whoever was there to “fix me”. That meant that they wanted to have the right position to be lying down before they died. They resigned their souls after they had been “fixed”. I found that profoundly moving that these people knew they were leaving their bodies and wanted it left behind just so. I pray I have the courage and the opportunity to do the same. It is unsettling to think about death in a personal manner –after all, only other people die, don’t they?

  40. BrianD says:

    Tony, long time no see! Glad you made it out of parts unknown ๐Ÿ™‚

    http://www.wwe.com/content/media/images/3883682/12172440

  41. Linnea says:

    There is much wisdom in examining this subject.

    My best friend’s aunt is dying. She has been in that condition for a few weeks. She was told that the only way she could live was on a ventilator and she, a retired nurse, said “send me home”. She wanted to be in familiar surroundings, with her loving family and friends. She didn’t want to prolong the inevitable and was ready to go. Her daughter, who is caring for her, along with hospice, said her mother taught her much in life and is teaching her even more in death. She said we tend to hide death in the US and that that does no one any good. I’ve learned much from my best friend’s aunt Jane.

  42. Cheri (sisterD) says:

    TonyP, it is indeed nice to “see” you here.

    Dying.

    The frist time I was with a family when someone died it was a child. His Father held him and it was heart breaking and the most tender thing I had ever seen.

    My husband’s grandmother was 99 1/2. Her family was around her in the nursing home and in the dim light I saw her reach beyond everyone and focus on what we could not see. A gentle smile crossed her face and she was gone. She had not known any of us for almost 10 years but she knew… So peaceful.

    My father-in-law had been sick a long time. We asked him if he wanted to be at home or in the hospital. He said home. He died a few hours later with family around.

    My Dad wanted to be in the hospital and we were with him there.

    My bio Dad died alone. He died of fear. It was terrible they said.

    When it is time, I want to be at home with family. I want simplicity. No bunches of flowers, fancy casket, money poured in a hole for a body that is empty of spirit. Simplicity. I agree with Dread “do not want a bunch of people commiserating on why God โ€˜took meโ€™ and fawning silly โ€˜heโ€™s in a better placeโ€™ comforts.”

    I think in ministry it is a matter of following what the family wants and being there. Loving them.

    Haven’t read the book. Probably will.

    Thanks, Michael. The new tone here is nice.

  43. Na'amah says:

    i think the most moving funeral i’ve attended to date was the funeral of my Muslim friend’s teenage son.

    The family and friends circled the grave praying, singing, grieving as my friend entered the grave and recieved his son’s body into his arms, laying him to rest.

  44. Rob Moll says:

    sorry, I’m just now catching up.

    Michael, to your first question about pastors helping people die well. I think that it has to apply broadly to the whole church/congregation. My article in Christianity Today talks about creating a culture of resurrection, in which churches teach the art of dying throughout life. They do this by fully integrating the generations, young and old, providing the young with a source of wisdom, and the old a sense of purpose as they pass on their knowledge and values. Pastors can also intentionally integrate the grieving into the church, not just with ministries, but by allowing those in morning to speak the the congregation as a whole. I personally like the idea of listing the names people who have lost a loved one in the church bulletin for a full 12 months. It not only reminds us of their grief and our need to care for them, but it simply gives us a reminder that death is ever present.
    You can read the whole CT piece here: http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2010/june/5.35.html

  45. Michael says:

    Rob,

    Boy, does that sound right…that is something I’d incorporate immediately.

  46. Rob Moll says:

    Michael and Kevin H, regarding “seeing the other side”

    In my research, I didn’t find “experiences of the other side” to be unique to Christians. However, people do seem to have good and bad experiences. But I think it’s important not to put too much stock into this. One book I read, which surveyed these experiences over the centuries, found them to be very culturally conditioned. That is, many people saw what their contemporaries expected them to see.

    However, scientific research and personal experience (mine but mainly those of others) suggest that there is more to life than the physical. People often seem to talk to deceased relatives. I’ve heard countless stories of people meeting angels or other spiritual beings and relatives as they neared death. This seemed to be more common when people died of illnesses they caught when they were otherwise healthy. Because of that, they often died fully awake and alert. They talked about seeing heaven (again in culturally conditioned terms, such as crossing the river Jordan). Today, when medicine allows people to remain alert, this is common. People die gradually today, over time. This means they may spend a period of days, as it were, moving back and forth from this world to the next. One woman told me about a family member who was sitting on the porch with the rest of the family. She said, quite casually, “there are other people with us.” A hospice patient that I visited with told me about a man named Passover who had come, seated nearby, to take him on a journey. It was clear to me that this was no hallucination!

    Also, it has been documented that at times someone on his deathbed may know that another family member has died. She may see him and talk to him. Tell the family and then they call aunt so-and-so only to find out she’d passed away that day. It’s not common, but the stories are numerous enough to suggest that life exists, that we are people, independent of our bodies. Of course our bodies are immensely important. Jesus rose in one and lives in a body now. Ours will be resurrected, physically, so this does not mean that we live in a shell and the real ‘us’ is inside somewhere. See: http://robmoll.com/2010/06/26/its-just-a-shell-is-it/

    Now, I don’t like to put too much stock in all this, because it is easy to get caught up in the mystery of it and forget the main point. The main point is that we will go to be with the Lord and our spiritual family upon our death. Perhaps we are sent messengers to accompany us. People once took Jesus’ words, “I will take you to myself,” in John 14:3 to mean that Jesus would visit us at our death. The point is that we will be raised to be with Jesus. We will live with and worship God for eternity among our brothers and sisters in Christ.

  47. Michael says:

    Rob,

    This is excellent information and it’s an excellent book.
    I’m very grateful you stopped by and hope you fill in as you have time and other thoughts for us.

  48. Sarah says:

    Hi Rob…it’s interesting to read this this afternoon. I’ll have to check out your book…I’m reading Wangerin’s Letters from the Land of Cancer at the moment.

    My mother is in an aggressively progressing dementia. She has had episodes about 5 times where she saw others calling to her. I was present for one…she began being very cold and fell into a deep sleep, almost to the point that we thought she had already died. Then she would wake with a start and say that there were people who were calling for her to come with them. She was slightly frightened, but more saddened and not ready to go.

    Honestly, I wasn’t completely sure what to think. Like your example of the man with Passover, I was confident she was not simply hallucinating.

    I prayed that if there was anything demonic God would simply take care of it. Beyond that my father and I simply talked with her when she was coherent. We told her she would know when the time was right.

    It is an exhausting experience (this episode lasted about an hour or more), and yet there is also a deep sense of the reality of eternity. There is in that moment, or at least was for me, the deep comfort that what we believe is true.

    We can banter about these things, and we wrestle with what we believe…and that is healthy….but there are these moments when the depth of the reality of God over-rides all.

  49. Another Voice says:

    I understandr the argument for the open casket, and I understand the argument for NO casket. Scripture is silent, so there is freedom.

    I think we err (and both sides err on this one) in exalting one view above the other as to how to best respect the dead.

    FWIW

  50. Rob Moll says:

    Sarah, my experience with my hospice patient was similar. It was clear that he knew this person was there to take him. But he also knew that he didn’t want to go. He had Alzheimer’s and in the year I was visiting him, there were few times that I better understood what he was communicating. You know, sometimes we talk about ‘quality of life’ with those who have dementia. And we think, who’d want to live like that? But it was clear to me that my hospice patient preferred Alzheimer’s and the nursing home. It was another couple months before he died. I do pray he was ready by then.
    It also shows that dying is spiritual work. We need to prepare ourselves. We need to become the kind of people who will enjoy being in heaven, as the old Puritan J.C. Ryle said. The dying process can be a preparative step.

  51. jlo says:

    I experienced my first death around 10 years of age; it was a grandfather figure in my life. My parents got the call around 2 in the morning that Laddy had passed away; my dad raced two towns over to be with Madge, and was home by 8: oo am to wake us with the news. He was very gentle and loving when he told us. The next death I experienced was at the age of 16 and that was of my father. That day is burned into my memory. My mom got the call from the hospital that my father was nearing his end. She packed me and my younger sister off to school and she and my older sister raced to the hospital. I knew what was happening even though my mom thought to shelter me from it. I waited all day for some news, then around 1:30 in the afternoon, while in my California history class while watching some film, the phone rang, the teacher Mr. Johnson came to my desk and pulled me outside. He asked me if I knew why the office wanted to see me; I responded that yes I did. He sent me to office with tears in his eyes. I knew Mr. Johnson as his daughter and I had been friends in grade school. I was angry at my mom for years that she sent me away and I did not get to be with my father at his death, I was angry at myself for years that I did not insist.

    Iโ€™ve experienced many deaths since then. Some believers some non believers, but the woman who taught me how to die was a client/friend of my husband. We had been married a little over a year when Joann ended her yearโ€™s long battle with cancer. Rather than continue treatment with a losing battle she opted to spend her final days at home. They instilled a hospital bed in the living room of their home and had a stream of friends, family and loved ones come in to say their goodbyes. I was kinda freaked out when my husband asked me to go and visit Joann, but it was the one of the most beautiful things I have ever been a part of. There were people coming and going so there was never fewer than 15 people in the house at one time. Joann talked with each and every one of us, telling each of us why we had made a difference e in her life, she passed two days after we made our visit. Joann was a fairly young woman, early 50โ€™s, when she left this life, but she left with style and substance. Thatโ€™s how I want to handle death.

  52. Sarah says:

    My husband’s grandmother passed away about 18 months ago. She was terrified. Screaming in the hospital, “Don’t let me die” and clinging to everyone who walked in.

    It was heart-wrenching, upsetting and sad.

    She was a believer.

    I hope, and my prayer right now, is that I will not be in that position. Honestly, I can’t predict. I would like now, though, to so soak in the reality of eternity and of Christ’s victory over death that when that moment comes it will not be filled with fear.

    Just a side-note as well…I have no idea if Jeff Stewart is reading, but I wanted to mention that he and his children have been close in my mind and prayers as we talk through this heavy matter. Jeff…your testimony during the passing of Karen was one of those who even in great sadness know the reality of their God.

  53. Michael says:

    jlo, sarah…thank you both.

    I have much to learn from all of you…dealing with death is a glaring weakness in my own soul.

  54. Rob Moll says:

    Sarah,

    I’m sorry to hear about how your husband’s grandmother passed away. Sometimes, there simply is no such thing as a good, peaceful death. I don’t want to pretend there is.

    I would however, take some comfort in the words of John Donne, the English poet and pastor. “make no ill conclusion upon sudden death nor upon distempers neither, though perchance accompanied with some words of diffidence and distrust in the mercies of God.

    “The tree lies as it falls, it is true, but it is not the last stroke that fells the tree, nor the last word nor gasp that qualifies the soul.”

    In other words, when things appear, at the end to go badly, we can’t make strong conclusions about the person’s soul. We don’t have all the answers, but we do know that it is the life that matters, not the passing of it. A life well lived is what counts.

    PS: Donne is counted to have preached his own funeral sermon a few weeks before his death. He preached it to King James (of Bible fame), and it is an excellent sermon if you can get past the archaic English. It’s what I quoted from and available here: http://www.upword.com/donne/deaths-duel.html

  55. nancy says:

    Wow … good subject to discuss … one we all need to face.

  56. Michael says:

    Nancy,

    You’ve been on many hearts today…just so you know.

  57. Erunner says:

    It’s odd how I could relate so closely to Steve H. even though I am relatively healthy. The aloneness and fear have plagued me for many years.

    Through the years as I have lived with anxiety I have had so many panic attacks where I thought I was in the act of possibly dying. And along with that so often there was sheer terror. It’s like being hung by the ankles over the pit of hell.

    I want to die a good death and not one like Sarah described. The saying goes that God will give you what you need when it is your time. I desire that.

    Through the years I have prayed with several people who were at death’s door. I have also officiated at three funerals. I have always been at peace during each of these appointments God has given me. At my father’s funeral my Uncle and I were the speakers. My anxiety was through the roof as I listened to my Uncle speak. As he was finishing God’s peace flooded me and I spoke without incident. I was worried I wouldn’t be able to talk.

    Through the years I have followed the stories of so many here who have been through so much and each of you are heroes in your own right.

    The book seems like something that would be good for me. Thanks for bringing it to our attention.

  58. Em says:

    Nancy, praying for you

    i don’t want to sound like i think i know what i’m talking about … just pondering…
    the brain (physical) can create a world that isn’t and yet appears so real – a total experience for the driven by that brain…
    i’m thinking right now of the sleep walker and some of those manifestations… i think it is possible that people who appear to be involved in an event, in reality, just aren’t there – when they wake up they have no idea or memory of experiencing what you saw them doing. For all practical purposes, they weren’t there… i suspect some of what an ill person manifests fits this and i hope that this is true of much dementia… the old saying, “you’re not yourself today”

  59. Em says:

    on the other hand, ๐Ÿ˜‰ Erunner you posted while i typed – what i pondered in my 8:32 has nothing to do, i don’t think, with mental problems such as you address on your thread

  60. Em says:

    strike the “for the” in the 3rd line, if anyone read my post above…

  61. nancy says:

    Thanks Michael & Em … thoughts & prayer appreciated.

  62. paigemom says:

    I want to acknowledge Frank Montenegro’s post. I have often thought of him, having prayed during the season of his first wife’s illness and death. I have wondered how he and Sophia were doing and am happy to hear his comments. Thank you Frank for sharing.

    Likewise, I have wondered about Sarah’s mom and will continue to pray.

    Yes, it seems most of us here have had our various appointments to observe and participate in the passing of ones we loved and it has affected each of us profoundly.
    A year or so ago, I actually did a Google search for Bible studies on the subject of death, dying and eternal life, and found several really helpful sites..
    It may seem morbid, but I do contemplate the subject often. Cancer does that to people.

  63. Believe says:

    Rob’s 6:28pm is fascinating.

  64. BrianD says:

    http://briandblog.wordpress.com/2010/07/07/linkathon-77/

    Also will post later today here on PP…

  65. Captain Kevin says:

    Frank Montenegro,
    Always good to “see” you here. God has obviously been doing a work in your life. One question, would that desert sky you speak of be anywhere near me? I believe you have my email address.

  66. Frank Montenegro says:

    Hi Captain!

    Yes indeed God is doing a work in my life!

    Please refresh my memory brother. I have lost track of many things ๐Ÿ™‚
    I’m in the California High Desert, and will gladly disclose my location via e-mail.

    PaigeMom, you are very kind. Thanks so very much for your prayers and the prayers of all who knew of Julie’s passing. Respectfully, Julie was struck and killed by an automobile (a car crashed through the front of a Jenny Craig building in Brea Oct 12th 2007) She did not suffer and was immediately healed by the Lord, as she came into His Presence for all eternity. We miss her every day.

    Sophia is GREAT!!! She is a straight A honor roll student in school (Julie was also an excellent student (straight A’s, Dean’s List, class Valedictorian) At only 7, Sophia Loves The Lord and is an amazingly talented child! An absolute treasure!

    My new Wife Sabrina, is an amazing Mom, musician, home maker and friend to me. She is the hardest working person i know. And like Julie, is the epitome of the Proverbs 31:10 woman. She has a wonderful 15 year old son from her first marriage. GREAT kid!

    Please feel free to write back

    my e-mail is voicesofhonor@gmail.com

    God bless!

  67. deadmanwalking says:

    1Co 15:26* The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.

  68. Michael says:

    Frank,

    My apologies for missing you yesterday…blessings on you!

  69. papias says:

    Read this this morning:
    “Blessed is the man whose strength is in You, Whose heart is set on pilgrimage.”(NKJV) Ps 84:5

    It made me think of our discussion here and the idea of life as a pilgimage.

  70. deadmanwalking says:

    A woman in her late 60s came into my office years ago. Her name was Veda, named after the Hindu text. She had been a life long Hindu and just found out she was dying of lung cancer. And she wanted to talk to a Christian. We talked for several hours. She was not convinced, but she kept coming back, as time passed a girl from our fellowship started to care for her as she got worse, we continued out talks until she was in the Hospital. She was very drugged when she said I am ready to be a Christian, so we all prayed with her and she slipped into a coma. We were left with uncertainty because she was so out of it we just were not sure she knew what she was doing. A few days later we went to see her, and she woke up and was tonally lucid and told us she saw “them” come for her, referring to the woman who was in the next bed that was not there, then she went on to thank us and said she knew Jesus was the Truth and her face was filled with joy, and fell back to sleep and died later that day. I went out and asked a nurse what happened to the woman in the room with Veda and she said she had died last night.

    The testimony of the dying is powerful.

  71. Shaun Sells says:

    I am young and have not dealt with much death (except my brother a few years ago). But, my associate pastor is in his sixties and shared some insight that caught me off guard, he said:

    In the years he spent pastoring he watched and weekly visited 100’s of people until the day they died. Each of them said they desperately wanted to go home to be with the Lord, but almost all of them continued taking medications that they knew would not heal them, but extended their life. They clung to life even when it was at its ugliest.

    Very sobering thought.

  72. Em says:

    Deadman, pastors and nurses have so much to share on dying – do you think there is a separate ministry in watching with the dying? it might be legally impossible today, but it does seem a time when a person’s pretense and prejudice fall off … would you say that folks in general are more open as that time?

  73. Em says:

    should have added that hospital ‘chaplains’ seem to administer salve, not the truth of ‘after this there’s judgement’ without Christ … could be wrong … again ๐Ÿ™‚

  74. JimB says:

    On Dec. 24th, 1993 I was with my grandfather when as a result of lung cancer he finally slipped away to be with the Lord, and this was after I had finally led him to Christ just four days before (this after 20 years of my witnessing to him). Then, less than four months later on April 7th 1994, I was with a woman from my church and home fellowship when as a result of lung cancer she finally slipped away to be with the Lord. In just a short couple of years of knowing Christ she had become an incredibly strong Christian and witness for Christ. She was completely prepared in heart to meet Christ when she departed. I wrote a book about this woman’s life, and what our church learned in ministering to her and her family, about what it means to be part of the body of Christ. It is called, “The Body of Christ in all her glory”. Those two experiences are so etched in my mind that I included them both in my book. The scripture is right when it says, “Blessed in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints”.

    This woman’s last conscious moment came two days before she died when she, her husband, and I knew that she was soon to pass into the presence of Christ. The three of us had been talking in her hospital room and laughing and joking around. You wouldn’t have thought that one of us was soon to pass away. I then asked them if they would like to pray with me before I left. He said yes, and she said yes and then looked straight up with a huge and radiant smile, one that was as if she were then gazing upon Jesus Christ Himself.

    I prayed out in thanksgiving and asked that a special blessing would be upon this woman as she passed away. Her husband then prayed out and thanked God in a likewise manner. But, this woman slipped forever out of consciousness before she could pray. Her body finally shut down a couple of days later. That day I knew that I was standing on holy ground when we had finished our prayer…

  75. deadmanwalking says:

    An observation is that often families will stay in denial in front of each other, but when I was alone with any one of them they would all open up and person dying would only talk openly to me when his family was not present. It’s like they all pretend but all know that death is coming.

    Then there have been a few that were open. I had one guy who literally jumped for joy when we spoke of his death, he and his whole family were very open. He was a pack rat and had dozens of tool boxes and shed and a whole ring of key that his wife brought to the hospital and asked him to tell her which key went with which lock, he just smiled and said no — Now you will have something to do when I am gone. He never did tell her about his huge ring of keys.

  76. Michael says:

    Thank you for that, Jim.

  77. Michael says:

    DMW,

    That’s classic… ๐Ÿ˜‰

  78. Erunner says:

    It seems awfully difficult to speak of death when everyone is believing God for a miracle. Talking about death as things take a turn for the worse seems as if for some folks is something to be avoided as they know God is liable to step in at the very last moment.

    Maybe if people were more of the mind that death does not equal defeat they might better help prepare the sick to make their transition. It also might help them in the healing process as I would think there are a lot of conflicted feelings they have to reconcile.

    Maybe some of us expect too much at the time of a person’s passing. They hear stories of someone who sees angels and then slips away with a glow on their face while another is singing to Jesus quietly as they move on.

    I think BrianD shared a link about the Internet Monk’s wife who wrote how unspectacular her husbands passing was. Death can be a very difficult time and maybe we need to be more proactive in preparing for it.

    Another thought is to let people know what your wishes are in case you end up on life support. My brother-in-law didn’t do that and he’s been in a coma for about four months now. I have visited often and desperately want him to “wake up” but admit to wondering if my sister did the right thing in keeping him alive.

    Yet how can I blame her for wanting her husband to come back? My wife went with me to visit and was moved to tears and as we left she told me again to never make that decision regarding her. I have a ton of respect and admiration for my sister but at times I wrestle with her decision.

    Her husband Jeff is undergoing various evaluations as after this month he will be moved to another facility. The goal is for him to do well enough that he can go to an acute therapy facility. The other options are not very good.

  79. Em says:

    Erunner, what a hard position your sister and you all are in… Everyone should attend to the paperwork that takes the burden off of others to make a life or death decision where possible – most know what you’re referring to, but here’s some info:

    http://familydoctor.org/online/famdocen/home/pat-advocacy/endoflife/003.html

    doctors have forms and so do other medical resources – it’s a simple no-brainer – i have mine filed away, but i’ll bet if you asked any of my 4 kids to go get them, they couldn’t do so without digging

    thot about a tattoo of “DNR” but, if i have clothes on that wouldn’t work – not desperate enough to put it on my hand or forehead – yet ๐Ÿ™‚

  80. Em says:

    do you suppose that we, as Christians praying for the sick, should pray as we ‘feel’ led, rather than wresting with God for healing no matter what? Of course, it makes sense to pray for healing if your spirit is moved to do so… dunno just wondering about how hard to pray for miracles… is there a rule?

  81. Erunner says:

    Em, Thanks for sharing information for those forms. There are a lot of stories via support groups that give my sister a lot of hope. People do wake up and live a fairly normal life. That’s what’s she’s holding on to. It has created tension with Jeff’s family as they would have made a different decision.

    Yet God has used my sister’s faith in Him to minister to others who have been impacted by Jeff’s accident. She has my support although I admit to wrestling with it all.

  82. Linnea says:

    Regarding all the issues with aging and “paperwork”, we in NM are lucky to have a resource written by an ex-probate judge:

    Life Planning in New Mexico
    Your guide to state law on powers of attorney, right to die, nursing home benefits, wills, trusts and probate.

    by Merri Rudd

    ISBN# 978-096321738-7

  83. Lutheran says:

    I reviewed Rob’s book for a Christian magazine recently.

    It’s, quite simply put, excellent.

  84. Michael says:

    Lutheran,

    Send me the link via email…I’d love to read it.

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