A Good Death?

Is there really any such thing?

IMG_0085How do we we deal, or don’t deal with the only sure thing in life; death. Well for the most part, here in our comfortable, prosperous west we do not. We leave it to someone else; the doctors, nurses, care workers and ultimately the undertakers, although most of them seem to prefer to be called funeral directors these days.

We sometimes hear about ‘a good death’ or giving someone who is dying their dignity. I suspect that much of the time what we really mean is, making it more palatable for the living who must deal with the dying person. Let us face it, the dying person almost certainly does not care about dignity and in some cases, just wants to be free of pain. In these situations death can be a kind of healing, although few people see it this way, especially those of no religious belief.

I am not afraid of my own death, I never have been. I might well be afraid of the manner of my death if, when it comes close and has become foreseeable, it is to be painful. And I am afraid for my wife if I should die before her. I would cope better alone than her but I am not afraid of death itself.

Having said I am not afraid to die, my next assertion is entirely my personal opinion for which I have no objective evidence and little anecdotal evidence; I think that more people of no religion are afraid of death than people who have a faith. Regular readers will know I am Christian, and this influences my opinions.

Both my parents died some years ago. Mum in her 90s after a stroke and Dad twenty years ago in his 60s, from pancreatic cancer. Both of their deaths were in hospital and I was not present at either, as I live 80 miles away.

After Dad’s death, I saw his body at the undertakers and immediately wished I had not. Although the undertakers had done a fine job on Dad, he was not as I wanted to remember him. That image haunted (no pun intended) me for a long time, before I was able to see him again as he was before the cancer took him. Consequently, I never went to see Mum after she was laid out, so I found it much easier to remember her as she was before the stroke.

Immediately after the stroke, Mum was admitted to the stroke recovery ward in the hospital and, for a while, seemed to make good progress even though she was over 90 years of age. One piece of news I gave her that seemed to perk her up was that, although I have no children and Mum had no grandchildren by my brother either, I was to become a Godfather. Sadly she did not survive to see that day.

Later, Mum was moved from stroke unit to the elderly care ward. It is my belief, though of course I’ll never know for sure, that once she was moved to elderly care, she lost hope and gave up. She died in the elderly care ward.

Perhaps there is no good death, but just maybe there is a good time to die. Mum passed away on her wedding anniversary to Dad. It seemed an appropriate day from which my brother and I took a little comfort. Knowing Dad’s punctuality, I never knew him to be late for anything, my brother and I could imagine our parents’ reunion, “About time too, where have you been, keeping me waiting for 20 years”.

To every thing there is a season, and a
time to every purpose under the heaven: 
A time to be born, and a time to die
– Ecclesiastes 3: 1 – 2


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