“Death is grace, the greatest gift of grace that God can give to His people who believe in Him. Death is mild, death is sweet and gentle; it beckons to us with heavenly power, if only we realize that it is the gateway to our homeland, the tabernacle of joy, the everlasting kingdom of peace.” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer
These are the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was a German theologian and pastor in the 1930’s and 40’s. Bonhoeffer wrote extensively about various theological subjects including death and dying. As a hospice chaplain who has worked with the dying, I believe that Bonhoeffer is correct. Death is truly a gift from God but only if we accept it as such.
However, death is not something we easily accept. We are led to believe death is to be prevented and avoided at all costs. Death is the one subject that we, as a society, do not want to discuss. If we just ignore any conversations on death then it will just go away.
The truth of the matter is that we are all going to die someday. Each of us begin dying on the day we were born. With that said, how can we view death as a ‘gift’ as Bonhoeffer contends? Here are a few thoughts on death and dying based on my experience in my work:
- Do not be afraid to talk about death with your loved ones. Your family needs to know you are ready and at peace.
- Death is a natural part of life. It is just as natural as birth.
- Death comes whether we expect it or are prepared for it. It can come at any time.
- The dying often want to die on their own terms, i.e., when they are alone and no one is present.
- Nothing can prevent death. It will come upon all of us.
- With each passing breath, we are closer to our own death. Therefore, always try to live life to fullest while you still can.
- Sometimes the one who is dying needs permission to let go. The dying often need assurance from family they will be OK after their loved one is gone.
- Death can be seen as a “gift” in which you can celebrate the life of your loved one.
- All of the material possessions (or the lack of) in life will not matter when death comes.
- The person who is dying will often give a “final gift” to their loved one for assurance they will be OK. The “final gift” will come in various ways, i.e.; it could be verbal (“I want to go home”), through touch or even the blink of the eyes.
We need to be willing to have those “critical conversations” about death and dying with the people we value most in our lives. We need to realize that each of us are mortal and that death is a part of life that we will all face someday.
About the author
Curtis Freed joined Harbor Hospice in January of 2017 as a Spiritual Care Counselor. He is a Board Certified Chaplain (BCC) with the Association of Professional Chaplains (APC). Prior to joining Harbor Hospice, he worked as a chaplain at Mercy VNS & Hospice for 3 years. In addition, he worked as a chaplain for Spectrum Health at Butterworth and Blodgett Hospitals for 8 years. He is a graduate of Liberty University (1987) and Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary (1990).