Tag Archives: death

What Do You Say To A Dying Person?

Abraham Lincon's deathbed
Abraham Lincon's deathbed

Just finished watching “My Sister’s Keeper” with my wife and promised her, if she ever became like the mom, Sara, I’d tell her a thing or two and not let her get away with it.

What I pondered most about the movie, though, was not the selfishness of the mother, the hole she was digging for herself primarily with her own inability to solve the problem she so desperately wanted to solve and the inevitable self-destruction that would escalate severely after her daughter died. It was the scene towards the end when all the family are hanging together around Kate’s bedside and they’re telling her to think about her body killing the cancer cells, think of getting strong and healthy again and picturing a happy, healthy, and long life alive on this earth. The family kept telling her to promise them she’d think about becoming healthy.

Being positive is a positive thing. But is being realistic, or even negative, a negative thing?

Oooh, a conundrum! And elitists the world over like to call Conservative Christians so very black and white in their small minds.

Well, this small mind is fairly crackling over the profundities of that conundrum.

Looking at Sara, the mother, we see an unhealthily positive woman. She was so very certain her daughter would live. She’d been driving her entire life and her family’s life, and anybody else she could get to orbit around her with this singular focus for 14 years. Her steadfast focus was a good thing in the beginning. It is important when beginning a fight to have hope and a high aim driving us. But as the fight wears on, even the wise become careful in their aims.

When Aragorn, after the battle of Pellenor Fields, considers the necessity of a distracting engagement at the very Black Gates of Mordor, he has no false hope of the potential success of this expedition. In a story characterized by great and lofty hope, the scene is singularly grim. Their doom is certain. The hearty heroes knew each of their own lives were secondary to the survival of the race of men free of Sauron’s bile, and then entertained no vain assumptions of their own longevity. In that last desperate moment the driving force was necessity and gritty determination rather hope for success.

Barbara Ehrenreich has a new book out about the perils of positive thinking. Emily Wilson, on AlterNet explains an important difference:

Positive thinking is different, she says, from being cheerful or good-natured — it’s believing that the world is shaped by our wants and desires and that by focusing on the good, the bad ceases to exist.

Focusing on the unattainable, when we know it is unattainable, is unhealthy. Focusing on the realistic future and making the best of it is very healthy. If that future is dire, go to it with a song and a good friend.

But I don’t want to just critique the destructive and desperate mother and her dangerous desires, I want to talk about those awkward relatives in the hospital room trying to make light of these few fleeting and final hours.

I have not expertise in this matter. Only a few close friends of mine have died, but I was not at any of their bedsides. Grandparents have passed on, but, unfortunately, in each case I wasn’t really close to them at the time of death and I was not at any of their bedsides either.

But it seems to me that, were I dying and it was obvious the end was soon, I’d prefer people to be honest about it, not dwelling on that fact, but not avoiding it awkwardly.

Obviously, the religious beliefs of the involved people would have a significant impact on the available subjects. If I were the one dying, I’d appreciate people being hopeful in the Christian sense. Appreciating a life lived for God and speculating on what I’d see after I’d shuffled off this mortal coil. If at the bedside of a dying Christian, I’d want to exude that hope as an encouragement to others in the room.

If I were at the bedside of an unsaved person dying, I’d want to capitalize on those last few moments to ensure they were aware, so far as I was able, of the true nature of life, it’s purpose, and the true God.

In all cases I’d want to make memories and recall old memories. The dying do not need new memories, they are for the living. There will be plenty of time for crying after the dying are gone, they’ve probably already shed their tears and would probably be happy for a pleasant escape. Save the funeral until after they’re gone.

As a Christian I have a powerful hope that carries me through (not above) any struggle. I know the worst that can occur is that I lose this paltry, meager, and short life here on this earth. Once it’s gone, it’s gone, and good riddance. I want heaven and real, true, immediate fellowship with my God and Savior and all those who have gone before. Matt Kelly still has to teach me how to shave with a straight blade.

So death for me is just a doorway, a passage. Like the passage around Cape Horn it is difficult and often fraught with pain and heartache. And like the passage around Cape Horn it is soon over.

So what would I say to a dying person?

I don’t know. I feel all I have here is a list of do’s and don’ts. Guidelines, more like.

One thing’s for sure, I won’t be talking about how the human mind can will the body to health. Medicine does that, and God does.

So what would you say to a dying person? Or even better, what have you said to a dying person?

The Manhattan Declaration And The Joker

This is not Hugh O'Shaughnessy
This is not Hugh O'Shaughnessy

Sometimes the cynics are so ludicrous you can’t help but laugh. It’s the only thing you can do in the face of huffy and misguided rants such as this one:

No one who surveys the statistics of abortion in the US and the wider world can in conscience express anything but horror at the increasing casualness with which this action is being performed.

But must one not be equally horrified by the fact that the signatories chose to make no reference to the evident evil committed by the US government and its allies in their illegal invasion of Iraq?

Hugh O’Shaughnessy of the Times of London posts this piece of precious pomposity under the title “A Declaration Of Hypocrisy” and his (initial) aim is at what he considers the nefarious religious right and the the recently revealed Manhattan Declaration, which is an attempt to codify and unify support for the goals of protection of all human life, protection of traditional marriage, and protection of the rights of conscience and religious liberty.

The Manhattan Declaration appears to be a worthwhile document with a strong backing from such leaders as Charles Colson, Kay Arthur, Joel Belz, Dr. James Dobson, and many other leaders of the Catholic and protestant faiths.

Hugh’s connection of the Manhattan signers support of pro-life measures and their support for the war in Iraq appears to be entirely founded on the bug bears of Abu Graib and Fallujah:

Tell me, Your Eminences, why did you achieve nothing effective in “defence of life” during the illegal invasion of Iraq and its attendant massacres? Why, Mr Colson, did you do nothing “in defence of marriage … and freedom of conscience” when Iraqis were being deprived – temporarily or for ever – of their spouses and children of their parents at the hands of the torturers of Abu Ghraib?

Go ahead and read the whole thing, it’s not very long and none of it is very bright. But hey, you may laugh, it’s just that bad.

Brief Respite

Grandfather's Love
Grandfather's Love

I’ll be away from computers most of the rest of this week.

My grandfather died last Saturday. He will be missed.

A veteran of the Korean War, father to a large family, including my mother, and kindly grandfather who made many memories with his many grandchildren.

He was a devout Catholic.

God has made it possible for me to drive down to San Antonio Texas to attend his funeral and see my extended family again. Though it will only be me, and not my wife, Grace, or our child, William.

So I’ll not be around here to post, likely.

Though I’d appreciate your prayers of safety for myself on the road, and for my wife and child as they stay up here in Chicago.

Update: My grandpa was a veteran of WWII, not the Korean war as noted.

The Fall


The days dim and shorten. The winds build and sharpen.

Death is everywhere about me as trees bid farewell to leaves that sheltered and fed them and grasses brown and say adieu to the mites who played about them.

Fields dim and then burn with radiant bursts of captured sunlight reflecting back in another fond farewell to the brilliant sky above.

There is everywhere a keening and weeping as vibrant nature shudders and gasps, falters and falls to her knees.

The hardy pine and weathered holly , the cheerful cardinal alone keep me company.

It is a good book and a deep drought of sharp air that open my mind to realms beyond the tightening round of the shrinking world.

Soon enough the hoary blanket will fall again and this great circle will complete once again.

Death to death, birth to birth, and in and out again we cycle through the ever new and ever ancient panes of our small lives here on this discord-bound globe, whirling over and over  from old to new and from new to old, and on again.

The exit is not yet for me, my path is not yet worn deep enough. His plans are still before me. And yet, for a time, surrounded by the death of nature I wonder. Beyond this small but too big life is a forest yet unexplored, a nature not yet discovered. There a paths not yet trod and rivers never before drunk.

But it is not for me. Not yet.

Life into death and death into life goes the circle again, and I, still on this meager sphere have paths before me still to travel.

Nature turns, the death rattle in her throat, and whispers after me as I turn away. Her words are born away by cruel wind and a bitter sun jests with the nervous clouds above.

Death into life will come around again and the frosted earth will thaw in time.

I will wait.

Kennedy To His Last Breath

Senator Edward Kennedy

Read Shattered China’s obituary to the man, the icon, here.

I heard of Senator Kennedy’s death this morning, not from the news, but from a good friend I was sharing breakfast with. And he said he wished he could be as Kennedy was, To his last breath, For what he believed.

For the sake of this argument we must accept and then put behind us the facts of this immoral, philandering, leacherous and treacherous man’s ways and means. There, now put that aside.

You’ve got to respect the man who never lost sight of what he believed in. Whether his own personal fame, power for his family name, success for his social(ist) ideas, history to be unable to forget him, his goals were never forgotten.

He could’ve set things aside at 60. His family will never want for wealth or position. He’d be feted at balls and parties, there would always be women willing and ready to bed him. For all intents and purposes he had it made.

But he didn’t stop.

He would work until he fell out of his chair, and then he’d work from his hospital bed tirelessly trying to secure the success of his plans and perversions.

If only.

If only he’d been strong for the right. Not the political right, the Lord’s right.

But there is us.

I am called to do no less for Christ than Senator Kennedy did for himself.

To fight with all I have, to struggle with all my might. And when my might is spent, to lean on the Lord for strength and continue on fighting.

May we all be the man Kennedy would’ve been had he been redeemed through the body and the blood of our gracious and merciful Lord Jesus Christ. Giving our everything and our all to Him and His glory.

May I be Christian to my last breath.