Skip to content

13 Comments

  1. Sam Geli
    03 July 2016 @ 6:19 am

    Excellent ideas and very practical and real help for all of us. As Adventists we need to make it a priority to demonstrate our love for the person who is dying. Most of all we need to be who we are. Be honest. Be authentic. Be you. It’s okay to let them see your fear and distress, but don’t let that overshadow your love. Express your gratitude to them for the ways they enriched your life, share happy memories and yes, do say goodbye — but do it tenderly. Don’t be afraid to touch the dying. Nothing communicates our love more than holding hands and stroking our loved one’s hair.
    Tailor your efforts according to the time available. Respect the fact that time can be very short from hearing the prognosis to the actual time of death. One of my personal pet peeves is when people are inconvenienced by the news, as though their loved one should have checked on their availability rather than having the audacity to sound the red alert at an inopportune moment. When your mother has a 50/50 chance of making it through the night, you don’t show up four days later!
    Another reminder for all of us is to respect the authority of the dying to make his or her own decisions.
    The person who is dying is the boss. If they are conscious enough to be making their own decisions — don’t bully them into doing things your way. Just as sure as you are that your way is right for you, know that their way is right for them no matter how different it is from your own. If someone holding a healthcare proxy is in charge, his or her authority is to be equally respected. Ideally, each of us gets our ducks in a row before our dying time. In reality, most do not. As a result, a lot of financial, legal, physical, mental, emotional and spiritual life-or-death decisions get made in a hurry, at the last minute. This can cause a lot of chaos, confusion, conflict and mixed up emotions among family and loved ones. Do your best to quickly align yourself with the wishes of the dying. It is their death, not yours.
    We also need to accept that he or she is dying. Don’t fight against it. It’s fine to hope that things will turn around and death will be postponed. However, if death is what is happening, it helps enormously to accept that fact. We are taught to fight against death like it is an evil monster. In fact, death is as normal as birth — we just haven’t been trained to see it that way. I find it sad when doctors and loved ones subject the dying to endless invasive drugs, tests and procedures when it is obvious that it is time to die. I am an enthusiastic supporter of hospice care for the dying.
    Each of us is born one moment of one day, we die one moment of another day and have an unknown number of days to live in between. Make the most of the time you and your loved one have left together. Fill it with tenderness and be of loving service to their wishes and needs. Give them a good send off.

  2. Kenneth Field
    03 July 2016 @ 6:52 am

    We are of an age, Butch and I. As he has lost many of his family, the same thing has happened to me. Suddenly, I am the patriarch of the family, and therefore, perhaps the next to pass. I am not happy about this. His wife’s comment about the last time seeing the Florida Keys brought my immediate response: “But I’ve never even SEEN the Florida Keys.” There is so much left to experience. And those we’ve lost will not be part of that. My cousin died while I was on a study tour to England one summer. I came home, and he was not there. I know he’s gone, but I keep looking for him nonetheless. Grandparents, parents, contemporaries are all missing now that I’m in my 60’s. It’s not going to get better. I confess, with death and dying, I take the day to day view. I don’t ask myself where we’ll all be ten years from now. I ask myself if I have loved that person today, and I take the next step. That’s all I’ve got.

    • Warren Nelson
      04 July 2016 @ 8:19 am

      Thanks, Kenneth.

      I completely agree, Ken.

      I learned a long time ago that being afraid of dying was rather colossal waste of time. And when I quit worrying about whether or not I was “ready” for an afterlife (more on that another time), life got really simple.

      Treat others the way you want to be treated and help those who can’t help themselves to the best of your ability and leave the planet better than when you got here. . . very easy to remember, even in my dotage!

  3. Elaine Nelson
    03 July 2016 @ 1:18 pm

    Of all people, Christians should have no fear of death. Their entire religion was built on Christ’s Resurrection, assurances that they, too, will have eternal life. As someone said: “I don’t fear death; I only fear dying.” And there’s the rub: we do not get to choose our time or means of death. Christ never promised eternal life on this earth, and if it were, it would be a terrible curse: To live forever with more infirmities and never have death as relief. The biblical three score and ten has been extended, but not forever. Live every moment to the best advantage by loving others, and enjoying life.

    • William Abbott
      04 July 2016 @ 2:47 pm

      Just so Elaine, well put.

  4. EARL CALAHAN
    03 July 2016 @ 2:15 pm

    O’ death, where is thy sting, O’ grave, where is thy victory?? Having lived 9 decades, i have
    completed my bucket tour. i have experienced many enjoyable times with family and friends, and tasted of Earth’s delights. In 1936 i stood within 5 feet of Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
    i have been to many of the world’s beautiful and desirable places, and a few of its undesirable ones. i have have witnessed death, and seen many of its worst, sad, and godless killing grounds. i have witnessed the origin of the old Model T Fords, the first passenger commercial airplane transport, the first usage of antibiotics, such as Penicillin, the Salk vaccine to combat Polio, heart transplants, and all the rest of medical tech which we have today. In my earlier years many died from common infections, many died from appendicitis. unheard of today. And only in the past 25 years, Scientific tech and dramatic breakthroughs
    in all areas of scientific and general knowledge has advanced to where my head spins, to be able to gather it all in. Due to the discovery of Computerization, its language, coding, and speed, knowledge is doubling every 18 months. Fasten your seat belts, you ain’t seen nuttin
    yet. Robotics and cloning are scary things you young people must take a stand on. Also the
    world drifting into Socialism, with a ONE WORLD ORDER, making slaves of most, is most scary, as the youth are drifting that way. Socialism degenerates into Communism, and the elite rules. Study Russia since 1917. Best wishes to all.

  5. William Noel
    03 July 2016 @ 2:43 pm

    Dealing with death is not easy. After all, it is the ultimate contradiction to the way “everything is supposed to be.” It can shake us to the roots of our faith, or it can drive us to God for the hope in His promises.

    We buried my father-in-law on Father’s Day so the sting of death is fresh in our house. He was 90 and in a nursing home so his death was not unexpected. The only real question was when he would die. Since he was the last of our parents we felt like we’d worked through a lot of our grief ahead of time. Still, the news of his death came as the rudest of slaps in the face. At the cemetery I mused to friends about how I was raised to respect my elders but it was harder to find any of them because so many of their names were on the headstones around us.

    My father-in-law was a conundrum because he professed no faith in God and the only time I ever saw him in a church was for a wedding or a funeral, yet he was more loving than a great many professed Christians. He personified to me what Paul spoke of in Romans 1 about those who do not know God yet obey that law by nature. I puzzled for many years about how to bring him into a relationship with God. Finally, I had to surrender him to God and quit trying. That’s when others took-over. People like our son and the chaplain. On my last visit with him, I thanked him for all the things he had done to help us over the years and told him that I believed he was loving as God loved. He said nothing but I could tell he was thinking about it. The chaplain told us that he made a profession of faith two days before he died. So my faith in God allows me to trust that he received the same promise of salvation as I have, so I expect to see him on the Resurrection Morning.

    Ultimately, I see how we deal with death is a measure of our faith in God. If we trust God with the smaller things of life, are we willing to trust Him to handle the bigger things like life and death and to comfort us in our sorrows.

  6. Jack Hoehn
    04 July 2016 @ 12:27 pm

    Death is not a great mystery to me, life is.
    That you and I are here is an even greater wonder than that we will die.
    How wonderful that every time we are sick, we have gotten well. Every bone we have broken has knit, every cold we suffered didn’t turn into pneumonia, every stab wound or scalpel invasion has healed.
    And always will.
    Except once.
    No one is permitted more than one final illness. Every other illness shall be cured.
    You and your lovable, kindly, helpful existence is the mystery. Healing is the daily miracle. Breathing is the wonder.
    So I refuse to worship at the altar of death, I praise and wonder and worship the giver of Life. And my fear of death is diminished by my joy of life. So when you die I will weep, and when I die I hope to have left you good memories. That there was a miracle called Butch is the wonder.
    And since I am no more capable of creating life that I am of solving death, both remain in the care of the creator of DNA, Carbon, Uranium, Oxygen, and sucrose. Those hands have camped with us, and told us that death is an aberration, to be handled by the same power that handed us unbidden our lives.
    Who am I to question that? I didn’t bring myself here, I cannot bring myself back. But Someone somehow did. That alone is reason enough to look forward to what comes next. Not without a bit of keen anticipation and the usual slight anxiety about travel to a place I’ve never been before.

    • Warren Nelson
      07 July 2016 @ 9:43 am

      Ah, Jack, you made my day! 🙂

      I go to a nearby Starbucks very early every morning and all the new baristas ask me how my day is going.

      My stock reply is “Wonderful! I woke up!”

      Some get it, some don’t. But clearly you do.

  7. Bill Garber
    05 July 2016 @ 8:26 am

    Testimony sure is more powerful than theology.

    Let’s turn Jack’s reply into a track.

    Seriously.

    The first line is the headline.

    Add a signature line:

    Jack Hoehn, MD,
    Seventh-day Adventist

    That’s it.

    Who might be interested?

    –Retirees
    –Whole Food Shoppers
    –24 Hour Fitness members
    –Chaplains
    –Military members
    –First time parents
    –Cancer infested families
    –Seventh-day Adventist ministers
    –General Conference of Seventh-day Adventist officers

    Let’s just say this list won’t fit in 1,500 characters!

    • WILLIAM
      09 July 2016 @ 6:45 am

      You’d better check and make sure Jack didn’t plagiarize Norman Vincent Peale before you publish and distribute.

    • Jack Hoehn
      15 July 2016 @ 11:41 pm

      Copy and Paste, Bill. Tweet to your heart’s consent. My patients hear it from me when they need it. And I repeat it to myself when shadows loom.

      (And I’ve never read Norman Vincent Peal, but he has never read me either, so perhaps both of us were inspired by the same Sweet Truth?)

      Jack

  8. EM
    08 July 2016 @ 3:19 pm

    Jack,
    Enjoyed your post and a healthy way to look at life.

    For so many a background of losing family at a young age or witnessing a violent death can cause years of PTSD no matter how strong their belief system. So I am careful of judging people’s faith by their fears. Sometimes we can make horrible comments on this subject to a fragile soul. I may have been guilty of that.

    But I like what one evangelist friend says: “No one has really died yet!” Only Jesus, we believe, has died the second and final death. Interesting how pastors rarely talk about this, especially in other denominations.