Friday, November 22, 2013

On Dying

Monastery Cemetery by Nancy Bauer, OSB
I find it fascinating that many churches in the catholic tradition designate the entire month of November to remembering those we have loved and are now on the other side.  Many of us remember, as well, some persons, also on the other side, whom we have only come to know through the stories we’ve heard about their courage, generosity, compassion, joyfulness or selflessness. Those persons remain imprinted in our memories typically because they have touched our lives in some lens-shifting way. 

As I walk through the end of November I sometimes envision my own readiness for the final journey.  One recent Sunday morning I stopped brushing my teeth long enough to listen to the words of Ira Byock, MD, as he spoke on American Public Media [APM] in an interview for Krista Tippet’s “On Being”. Byock is the author of Dying Well.  I was startled to hear the brevity of what he invited us to do in order to die well.  He, as a palliative care physician, hears people somehow utter these four phrases when they are “terminally ill but doing fine”:

Please forgive me.

I forgive you.

Thank you.

I love you.

When those I love dearly are standing with me and accompanying me in my final walk to the other side, I pray that I will have let each one know how important they are to me by hearing myself say out loud to each of them these four freeing-phrases.  And maybe I’ll vividly remember the words of Winnie-the-Pooh “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.” Then I can freely choose the other side.

Mary Rachel Kuebelbeck, OSB


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