October 24, 2017

Another Look: Pastoral Care of the Dying

The Raising of Lazarus (after Rembrandt), Van Gogh

By Chaplain Mike

Back on November 17, 2009, I wrote my first post for Internet Monk. Actually, it was an interview that Michael Spencer did with me called,“Chaplain Mike Mercer: Evangelicals And The Pastoral Care of the Dying: The IM Interview.”

Lately, as I have solicited questions for the “Ask Chaplain Mike” posts, several readers have inquired about matters related to my work as a hospice chaplain. I will answer them this week, but I also thought it would be good, especially for newer readers, to read the initial interview as a foundation. Originally, it was presented as one complete post. I will break it down into two parts this time so the discussion can be more focused.

My work is one area of my life right now where I have a positive sense of the presence and activity of God. Being able to continue ministering in a pastoral fashion to my neighbors has kept me spiritually hydrated as I’ve wandered the post-evangelical wilderness with regard to the church and as I’ve struggled with other issues related to mid-life.

But this is not really about me. It is about the God who is at work behind closed doors, where family members sacrifice greatly to care for dying loved ones. It is about the privilege of being able to go to them and show kindness and concern. It is about knowing that God has gone ahead of me in each encounter, that I am entering a story that has been being written for many years, and I may have a part to play. It is about working on a team of talented, compassionate people, who use their gifts and work together to bring peace to patients and their families.

It is the most Jesus-shaped thing I have ever done.

Portrait of a Young Peasant, Van Gogh

INTERVIEW, PART ONE

Tell us a little about yourself, your journey as a Christian and your current ministry.

I grew up in the Midwest, in a moral, Protestant home, attending United Methodist churches. During my senior year in high school, after a move across the country that shook my foundations, I had a spiritual awakening and responded to an altar call in a Southern Baptist church, where I was re-baptized. I went to Lancaster Bible College in Pennsylvania. There, I became convinced of a call to enter the pastoral ministry. My wife and I were married after graduation, and our first congregation met in one of those historic, quaint, white steepled churches in Vermont, and there the people taught me much more about how to be a pastor than I taught them about Jesus.

After five years, we moved back to Chicago to go to seminary at Trinity in Deerfield. I was studying under some of the finest teachers in the world, pastoring a small church, our children were being born, and we had many wonderful friends supporting and encouraging us. However, there came a point after I graduated that I felt I needed some mentoring and more experience on a church staff. We also were trying to determine where we would put down roots as a family. So, when the opportunity came, we packed up and moved to Indianapolis. Here I served in a non-denominational church as the associate pastor with an emphasis on worship and music, but I also did a lot of pastoral care, teaching, and leading mission trips. Then I became the senior pastor in a sister congregation. After a rather difficult experience there, God opened up the opportunity to serve as a chaplain in a hospice program. Soon it will be five years since that journey began.

God used many past experiences to prepare and equip me for this work. In Vermont, our small church was a parish church. Because we were the only congregation in the village, I visited the sick and did funerals for all kinds of people, including complete strangers who’d had vacation homes in the mountains and wanted to be laid to rest there. We also had a significant population of older folks and shut-ins that I learned to love visiting. That was also true in the other churches where I served—I just seemed to connect well with the senior citizens. Also, while in seminary, I took my first CPE (Clinical Pastoral Education) course, and was introduced to the inner workings of the hospital and how to serve patients. Since then, I have always appreciated the strong connection between medical and spiritual care.

I consider my grandmother to be one of my greatest examples for ministry. After my grandpa died rather early in life, she devoted much of her adult life to caring for her elderly neighbors, friends, and fellow parishioners. Her simple and faithful service showed me what it means to be the salt of the earth.

I have always believed that pastoral ministry is about prayer, proclamation, and people-work. As my favorite pastoral author, Eugene Peterson, says, it is not about “running a church.” Frankly, I am appalled at how these perspectives have gotten turned around in today’s church, and how little attention is given to foundational ministries like pastoral visitation. It is a forgotten art.

That is why I am glad to be in a position now where personal work can be my primary focus. Every day I visit individuals and families in their homes, in extended-care facilities, and in hospitals. My job is to enter their worlds, befriend them, show them kindness, listen to them, answer their questions when I can, and provide various kinds of spiritual support that may help them find peace at the end of life. I have often imagined that Jesus’ earthly ministry must have been like this, as he went from village to village and house to house, engaging people in their own settings, exhibiting compassion, providing healing, giving hope.

Another reason I love my job is that I work with a team of skilled and compassionate professionals who all do their parts to serve our patients and families with regard to their medical needs, psycho-social needs, personal care needs, and, after a death, needs associated with the grieving process. Hospice is a wholistic service—covering body, soul, and spirit, and respecting the processes involved in the final season of life and beyond.

The Church at Auvers, Van Gogh

1. I first thought of this interview when it occurred to me that evangelicals don’t seem to have anything close to the resources of other traditions when it comes to pastoral care of the dying? Am I right?

In my experience, most people and churches in the evangelical world have their focus on fellowship and activism. The kind of work I do doesn’t fit the model very well.

I can’t tell you how many times I have had an evangelical friend or pastor ask me, with a sour look on his face, “Do you really like doing that?” They recognize that caring for those who are seriously ill and suffering is a part of life, but it’s a part they would rather avoid and deal with only when absolutely necessary. Not a regular part of the “mission,” you might say.

They know how to put people on the prayer chain. They know how to make a meal and bring it to a family that is going through a hard time. If there is something active they can do, like get a list together of folks to help the family with errands or cleaning house, etc., they might be able to organize some practical assistance. These things can be quite helpful, and should not be looked down upon. However, beyond that, there’s not much in the paradigm, especially if you’re talking about pastoral visitation. And we haven’t even talked about ministering to dying people who are outside the church, which is not even on the radar of most pastors or congregations.

It certainly was not an emphasis in my education. We had few pastoral care courses in my evangelical Bible College and seminary. Nor is it emphasized in churches. I don’t know many evangelical churches that have programs like the Stephen Ministry for equipping believers in caring ministry. The more pervasive model seems to be that churches will support a parachurch ministry and expect the work to be done by them. It’s not really part of the church’s mission.

With regard to care for the dying, most pastors and people have not been taught that it is a good use of their time, that it is Christ-like and genuinely helpful, to simply sit with people, actively listen to their feelings, and not feel like you have to give “answers” or put the situation in an understandable theological framework so that folks might know the divine “reason” behind what is happening. Evangelicals don’t usually have a great deal of good language with which to pray for these folks, either, and it may be the rarest of things to find an evangelical worship service (or even funeral service) that contains rubrics for lament or recognition of grief and loss.

Don’t get me started on mega-church pastoral care. From what I’ve seen, it’s non-existent.

Now, I don’t want to be too hard on evangelicals alone here. Other traditions have more experience and better tools for being pastorally present with people, but that doesn’t mean it always happens. Mainline pastors often drop the ball here too. I’ve seen many a Roman Catholic priest do a perfunctory anointing of the sick and never really connect personally with the family. One can read the most beautiful prayer from The Book of Common Prayer without feeling or expressing any empathy whatsoever. Nevertheless, I have found that pastors and parishioners in the older traditions at least understand that this is one of the things the church and her ministers should be doing.

Ultimately, in my view, this is another area where the church (at least in the white, suburban culture with which I am most familiar) has become conformed to the death-denying, suffering-averse, productivity-centered world we live in. How is sitting with the dying gonna help build my church?

Still Life with Bible, Van Gogh

2. Is a significant part of this deficit because of evangelicals’ lack of liturgical resources?

That lack certainly doesn’t help. When most of our prayers begin, “Lord, we just want to thank you for…,” it signals that we might suffer from a lack of language to appropriately relate to life’s awesome mysteries. Purely spontaneous prayer doesn’t work because we simply don’t have words when we are in a situation that overwhelms us.

But why do we rely on that? After all, we claim to be Bible-believing people. No book on earth contains human expressions of sorrow, pain, anguish, grief, disappointment, anger, guilt, loneliness, or fear like the Bible. We just have to read it! But because we haven’t really internalized the Scriptures, we don’t know how to be human, we don’t know how to pray as real people dealing with real life before a real God.

Walter Brueggemann writes about “the formfulness of grief.” One thing we learn from Scripture is that, in the chaos of suffering, we need a sense of clarity and direction in the midst of our disorientation. So, we lament. The lament form gives us a pattern by which we may express our grief, contemplate our faith, and make a way through the wilderness of suffering. We usually don’t have the words. We’re too overcome. It hurts too much to talk. Appropriate liturgies give us profound words to speak when we can’t, words that in turn speak to us, give us perspective, and help us survive.

3. Do evangelicals have a model of a “good death” or does their theology move them in the direction of asking God for miracles?

Coming to grips with the terminality of a loved one is a process for everyone, not just evangelicals. The difficulty of the process also varies depending on the situation. Losing my 90 year-old grandmother is sad, but I probably would not suffer undue shock or dismay, especially if her death followed a normal course. I would be happy that she had lived a long life. I would rejoice in memories of what we shared in life together. I would be grateful that she was able to be comfortable and peaceful, with her pain and symptoms managed well at the time of her passing. Most of us would probably call that a “good death.” We would be concerned and sad, we would offer prayers for her and the family, but I doubt if we would be calling all-night prayer meetings asking God to intervene.

However, a young person, a woman in the prime of her life, a robust middle-aged man, a person who is not at peace with God or others…in such cases the diagnosis of a terminal condition throws us all out of whack. And it should. The question then becomes—What are our options at that point? I’m not sure there is a single “evangelical theology” that speaks to the situation.

The Pieta (after Delacroix), Van Gogh

Those whose tradition emphasizes miracles, divine intervention, and healing would likely view the situation as absolutely NOT God’s will and would marshal all their resources to fight the devil they blame for the person’s illness. Others would be more stoic and submissive. Some might emphasize trying to understand what is happening, looking for “reasons” to satisfy the Christian perspective. Most all people will bounce up and down on a roller-coaster process of anticipatory grief, needing someone to be with them for support and encouragement all along the way.

In my view, that is the bottom line. No matter where people are with regard to their specific reactions to end of life issues, no matter their theology or conditioned response to tragedy or loss, they need support. They need a calm, reasonable, caring human friend to sit with them, who is available to listen and support them. I have sat with families that have all kinds of reactions, and my approach has been fairly consistent—BE THERE. Period. Trust the process, rely on the active presence of God, and walk down the road with them.

Comments

  1. Clay Knick says:

    We’re two peas in a pod, Mike. Thought that in ’09 when I read this then. Keep on keeping on, brother.

  2. Isaac (the poster occasionally still known as Obed) says:

    One of the most important books on ministry I have read in recent years was The Pastoral Use of the Prayer Book: The Substance of Plain Talks Given to his Students and Younger Clergy, written in 1904 by Episcopal Bishop William Paret. In a section devoted to pastoral visitation of the sick, he advised his students to simply follow the Prayer Book’s service. He said that in his many years of experience, he had found the simple, formal rite to be a major comfort to the patient, the patient’s family, as well as to the minister. Even in his day, many ministers found such advice to be counter-intuitive. After all, isn’t that too formal, too cold, to stodgy? Paret said that what he had found was that folks found the opposite to be true. Instead, they were honored that the Church would invest the same solemn beauty into their personal trials as it did to the community’s most important services. Paret said that when doing less-formal visits to chronically ill parishioners, they’d often ask with expectation when he was coming by for one of the more formal visits.

    A few months ago, I had the opportunity to go on my first solo hospital visitation. The sick man wasn’t even a member of our parish, but was rather a family member of a parishioner and had been flown in from a neighboring town for the operation. Not really having anything else to fall back upon, I took Bp. Paret’s advice and found him to be 100% correct. Later, I found out that while this man had been an Episcopalian many decades ago, he currently goes to a non-liturgical, non-denominational church. Nevertheless, the simple liturgy was a major comfort to him and to his wife. In fact, they asked to keep the copies of the service I had made.

    • Wait? Are you Isaac (the poster formerly known as Obed) or are you Isaac (the poster occasionally still known as Obed)? SO CONFUSING 😛

      • Isaac (the poster occasionally still known as Obed) says:

        You think YOU’RE confused!?!? Try BEING an Isaac/Obed!!

  3. Thank you for addressing this vital ministry. I spent a decade as a hospice nurse (case manager) and miss being able to serve God and others in such a direct fashion. Hopefully, we can also get the word out that hospice care does not mean “Stick ’em in a corner and wait for the grip reaper to show up”. Sadly, many people, Christian and un, have this misguided notion. Hospice is about quality of life until the final breath, as well as care and support for the family and/or caregivers. Hospice may be an appropriate choice when someone has an illness with a generally anticipated life expectancy of about six months or so, and who no longer wants to be in and out of hospitals and clinics for surgeries and agressive treatments with very little payback. Hospice DOES mean caring for the body and soul, controlling unpleasant physical symptoms so that people can prepare for their final journey.

    But, there are issues that can’t be handled medically, and that is where the chaplain takes the lead. In fact, there is a problem we call “terminal anquish” which is NOT bodily pain, but pain of the soul and heart. Coming to peace with the transition to the next life is complicated when there are unresolved relationship issues, with other people or with God Himself.

    The following is my own personal experience, and I offer no interpretation or ‘proof ‘ of anything in these experiences….

    One point I share with others of faith is that, at the moment of death most people look like a five year old who just saw the lit Christmas tree and all the presents in the early dawn light on Christmas morning. The look of joy, happy surprise, wonderment, and peace is beautiful to see. Many people have reported to me the presence of angels and/or loved ones who have already died. All theology goes out the window at that instant, and it is a blessing to have seen so many people recognize their Beloved Lord as they go home.

    I would be remiss if I did not mention my one exception (and again, this post is my personal experience….what it may mean to anyone else is “above my pay grade” to answer). I have been with at least a hundred people at the moment of death. “Mr. Smith” stands out in my mind only because his passing was so different from all the others. Mr. Smith had no family and few friends. He was a loner; detached, aloof, and mad at everyone and everything. He took his illness as just another personal slight, and as his nurse I took the brunt of his unhappy and sometimes ugly rantings. He refused almost all medications and equipment that might have made him more comfortable….and refused to see the chaplain, social worker, or a volunteer. His “team” was me and a nursing aide.

    When he died, after about 4 hours in a coma, his eyes flew open wide, pupils dilated, and his mouth opened wide as if to scream. He looked terrified. I was no rookie, but the hair on the back of my neck stood up and the room got cold for a several seconds. I don’t know where he was or who/what he saw, but I hope I never find out.

    • Thank you for sharing your personal experience!

    • Pattie, you’ve just described the death of Joseph Stalin. Here is a description of his death by his daughter Svetlana:

      “Father was dying horribly and hard.. His face went dark and changed… his features were becoming unrecognisable.. The agony was terrible. We could see how it was stifling him.. At the last moment he suddenly opened his eyes. It was a horrid look — either mad, or angry and full of the horror and sort of either pointed up somewhere, or shook his finger at us all… The next moment his soul, having made its last effort, broke away from his body.”

      I’ve read another account of it that wasn’t as truncated, but this is what I found on the web. Pointing up in horror at something just before the end is chilling, as you said.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      I don’t know how to say this without sounding snarky, Pattie, but what you describe sounds so Conventionally Christian that I’m very skeptical.

      Denise Day Spencer, widow of the original Internet Monk, had no such experience, though she heard a lot of accounts like yours. Go to the “Denise Day Spencer” on the Category dropdown on the right side of this blog and take a look at the bottom two entries (“Sometimes It’s Just Plain Hard” and the one above it) for her take on the subject. Very different from yours, though she does touch on it. “Life got hard. Then it got harder. Then he died.”

  4. Pam Burns says:

    I’m ten months into grieving the loss of my husband, and I can tell you that people in general and Christians just as much, do not know how to deal with death or especially grieving people. I don’t know that I would have either, but I did know enough to say I’m sorry to someone who had suffered a loss. I so much appreciate what you do and wish there was more training in the church for dealing with this important subject.

  5. Thanks for sharing this, CM. We as pastors are often poorly prepared for the grief, anger, sense of loss, etc…that comes with death. It’s difficult and awkward to adequately express how the Lord might be working in situations like these, and I do agree with you that liturgies are helpful.

    I once had a senior pastor encourage me to rush to a local high school when a student, whom I didn’t know, had passed away suddenly and tragically. He said, “This would be a great evangelism opportunity.” I did touch base with students I knew personally by phone that day, but just couldn’t hover like a buzzard, hoping some kid caught up in the wave of grief might pray a prayer with me so he could avoid hellfire, or at least take a flyer about upcoming events at the church…One of many incidents that led to me leaving that particular denomination.

    I will say that some of my most rewarding moments in ministry over the past eleven years have been times when I shared the grief of those who lost loved ones, or held the hand of a saint who was passing. There is a sublime beauty in those moments that is difficult to express, to encounter the grief of man alongside the mercy and love of God all at once. These are moments that I once feared as a younger pastor, but now consider it a rich ministry…not because it’s an evangelism opportunity, or an opportunity to promote a church…but because caring for the dying and mourning is exactly the type of thing that Christ would have us to do.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      I once had a senior pastor encourage me to rush to a local high school when a student, whom I didn’t know, had passed away suddenly and tragically. He said, “This would be a great evangelism opportunity.”

      You know what that reminds me of? Gun Control Activists a la Sarah Brady from around 10-15 years ago. Every time there was a school shooting or spree-killer rampage, the Gun Control Activists would be pushing their bills through Congress within 24 hours. A Columbine was nothing more than “What an Opportunity To Advance Our Agenda!”

  6. David Cornwell says:

    It’s interesting that you should post this today. Yesterday I learned that a young doctor friend of mine who has always been interested in hospice service, and has recently received some extensive training in it, has been approached to work in the pallative care unit of a large hosptial. He has always had a keen desire to serve somehow in this setting. At the present time he is head of medical staff at a clinic which serves those totally without financial resources. He seems to me to have an intuitive sense about him that is basically pastoral in style. It is so refreshing to see a career unfold that isn’t about compettion and the accumulation of money.

    One thing I know for certain. When you reach retirement age, the stories people remember about your ministry will not be about your wonderful leadership, the large numbers you add to a church, or your powerful sermons. The stories will be about how you cared for someone dying or your presence with a family of bereaved loved ones. Two of my best friends to this day are the parents of a boy killed in a tractor accident on his 16th birthday (this was almost 30 years ago). And it’s not because of the fine sermon I preached.

    I’ve heard too many pastors find excuses for not doing true pastoral care. They are too busy with administrative work, preparing sermons, attending committee meetings, or planning for the advancement and growth of the church. Or they have taken up committee work of one sort or another with the denominational body. This is a side note, but I’ve observed these committees for many years. They make studies and recommendations, after hours and hours of work, which are later largely ignored. I’ve also noticed that 30 years later the same kind of committees are churning out more recommendations. Doing this kind of work makes it easy to have excuses about doing the work of a pastor.

    I understand the difficulty of doing this work in our cultural setting. I agree. It is difficult. But it is not impossible. Find ways to do it. Ask for God’s guidance and look for open doors. If you don’t know what to do once you arrive, then start by listening. Sit in slience. Ask simple questions that show you have heard. Hold a hand like like mom or grandma held yours when you were afraid. The more you do this, the more you will understand.

    • “If you don’t know what to do once you arrive, then start by listening. Sit in silence. Ask simple questions that show you have heard. Hold a hand like like mom or grandma held yours when you were afraid. The more you do this, the more you will understand.”

      This is absolutely true. I am a police officer, and am often the first one to arrive after sudden or unattended deaths. My official job at these times is to investigate the cause of death and help the coroner remove the body from the house. But my most important task is to attempt to help those who remain, and almost always the best way to do that is just to listen and let them know someone cares.

      • Steph, you are so right on. Don’t worry about saying the “right thing”. There IS no RIGHT thing to say. A hand to hold, a shoulder to lean on, and just being PRESENT in the moment is often the best we can do. The only words that are ever always true are “I am so sorry that you are going through this.”

  7. Good post!! I also learned that modern evangelicalism is ill-prepared to deal with death and dying. As evangelicalism has been corrupted and infected by consumerist culture and the American dream, that also plays out in many fundy churches. Evangelicals worship youth and make youth programs an idol. But given how uncomfortable death and dying is as a subject it is very much avoided. I’ve been in situations and circumstances where people do not talk about or discuss a family member who has cancer, or another disease which can be terminal.

    What has previously been touched on how evangelicals have to view death and tragedy as an opportunity to evangelize, is just as disturbing. At the fundgelical mega kingdom in the Tyson’s Corner in the D.C. area they had a sad spectacle a couple of years ago. Let me give you some background…a tragedy played out in the Baltimore-DC area where a father in a custody dispute (if I remember correctly) drowned all his children in a hotel bathroom. He was arrested and being dealt with by authorities. The wife was in the orchestra of this mega church and on local TV was giving her testimony a couple of days after her children were murdered and talked about how “God is in control” and did so with certainty, etc.. I watched this and thought, “Jesus why can’t fundy’s grieve? Do they have any emotions, feelings, etc..?” Shortly after that someone in the church was murdered and they had a service where they talked about pain and suffering and then the following week..back to normal. It was weird. As I have had to process the death of my grandmother I have learned that you learn to live with the scar. It hurts, I think of all the things that my grandmother will not be able to see. The same holds true for my great uncle who was close to me growing up. My great uncle liked trains and that’s part of the reason why I like to model trains. In my case I feel like it keeps him alive in my mind.

    When my grandmother died in 2009 I learned that I was not prepared for death. I thought I was, and learned that I was not. Nothing prepares you for it. But you know what made the process easier and more bearable?

    1. Meeting with the hospice nurses who told me and my family about my grandmother’s last moments. Hearing a nurse cry as she told my family the story of how she held my grandmother’s hand and told her it was okay to leave this world. The stories the nurses told us about how loving, and kind my grandmother was…even at 100. They cried, I cried, everyone there was mostly crying. Would a super star fundgelical pastor do that service? Probably not!! There’s a show, eh I mean a business..oops I MEANT a mega church to run.
    2. At the funeral service the Catholic priest who led the service knew my grandmother for about 50 years. He did the services, baptisms, etc.. of other family members. When my grandmother because of her age couldn’t attend church he visited, hugged her and brought her communion in her apartment. Would a fundgelical mega start pastor worshipped by the fundys do that? Probably not. As the funeral service closed this Priest stood up and was telling my family how he remembered “so and so Healey”, and remarked about my family’s deep history in this town in Montana. He told us that our family was a part of the community for over a 100 years, if there’s one place our family has as home, it’s this western Montana community. At the dinner following the service I was talking to this Catholic priest and he told me about my family and I learned stuff I never knew. Would this happen in a fundegelical setting? I sincerely doubt it.

    Evangelicalism like American culture is disposable towards our aging and dying people. Evangelicals are forgetful of the elderly and have a tendency to throw them away. That’s sad, and disturbing. When I stood by my grandmother’s grave as the Catholic Priest led the final rites I couldn’t stop thinking about what John MacArthur said about Catholicism being from Satan. I felt sick, and I was pissed. If I believe what John MacArthur says my Irish Catholic grandmother is in hell. Some of this BS fuels my anger and rage toward Christianity. h\However, today I’m trying to think of the love shown to my grandmother by the Catholic priest who knew her for 50 years and the hospice nurses. That for me is love.

    • MacArthur’s ignorance is a reflection of 500 years of Protestant mistrust of anything involving vestments, and utter ignorance of historical Christianity prior to the Reformation.

      Besides, everyone knows that all Irishmen go to Heaven. I’m not sure that’s in the Bible, but it should be.

    • I think all denominations are suffering from the same lack today. It used to be the custom that the priests would do pastoral visitations to families, but that has gradually dropped by the wayside ( I won’t say it’s died out altogether), simply because of the changing religious landscape in Ireland; people are not so involved in their local parishes and communities, the role and importance of the priest in community life has changed, it feels like an imposition to just drop in unasked and unannounced, people have left the church, etc.

      But what you say about your grandmother, Eagle, resonates with me. When I and my siblings were small, the local priest visited my bedridden grandmother (my mother’s mother, who lived with us) every week and brought her communion. He was a remote, stern, aloof sort of man, but he was a good priest. I know that later, when he was made parish priest of a different parish, his parishioners (some of them, anyway) didn’t like him so much because he was old-fashioned, conservative and seemed to them stand-offish (and he certainly was not an easy-going, back-slapping type of man).

      But I maintain to this day that he was a good priest. He was good to my grandmother, and he was good to us – for example, we were young kids and naturally curious about what was going on, so we’d hang around and try peeking in the window, etc., when he was hearing my grandmother’s confession and saying prayers before giving her the Eucharist. He was the type of man who you would expect would tell my mother to keep her children under control as he was bringing the Sacrament, but I can never remember one instance of him giving out or being angry about us.

      He was cold, but he did his duty well, and I reverence his memory fondly.

      • Suzanne says:

        I think this refusal to deal well with the sick and dying is an outgrowth of the consumer driven, business model church. It’s all about “winning” and death is not a win. At least not in earthly terms.

  8. cermak_rd says:

    Because you work with a hospital, and not a mission organization, how do you deal with the reality of working with people who simply don’t share your belief system? I know you alluded to it with your reference to working with those not in your Church. I take it that like a military chaplain, your job does not include attempts to convert but simply to serve the needs of the person. Has that ever caused you any discomfort ?

    • I can only speak from my experience, which was that almost all people involved in hospice are spiritual in some sense of the word, if not actively involved in formal relgion. Most of us seemed to feel that if this life was all there was, then our work was totally futile and we should have been euthanizing them all like a dying beagle.

  9. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    When I stood by my grandmother’s grave as the Catholic Priest led the final rites I couldn’t stop thinking about what John MacArthur said about Catholicism being from Satan.

    Ever thought that may just have been Bad-Mouthing the Competition?

  10. “But because we haven’t really internalized the Scriptures, we don’t know how to be human, we don’t know how to pray as real people dealing with real life before a real God”

    Thank you for that line CM!!!!

  11. CM, Yours is a rich and thoughtful post today with several excellent, personal comments. Yet it’s not generated so far even a tenth of the comments that would follow a post about the “homosexuals.” Maybe that’s due to the profundity and personal nature this post; yet you’ve made a tremendous, provocative observation about death and American evangelicalism that ought to attract more thought and attention – even action. Thanks for doing so. I know I’ll come back to read this from time to time.

  12. Very helpful post for me to read. Thank you!