Life as well as Death are both realities and at the same time a mystery that all of us experience at every moment of our Life’s journey. Even though every person that is born into this world will one day be facing death, it is strange but true that we hardly give a thought to it. This article is meant to convince everyone that it is our duty to prepare ourselves for the final end of this temporal life.
All of us will remember that as we were growing up, we were taught the four final events of Life : Death, Judgement, Hell and Heaven. Each of us can ask ourselves whether we take these matters seriously. The saying goes: “As you live, so you die”. Hence if we prepare ourselves well we are destined for Heaven, which is our birthright; alternately we choose Hell, by our own choice. A frightening thought! How important it is then to live our life with responsibility! “Remember your last end and you will not sin”, says the Word of God. If we reflect on this thought we are prepared every day to face the end of our Life’s journey.
Let me share with all of our readers that in my home when I pray my night prayers I remind myself that each night could be my last by praying the Act of Contrition. ! If we prepare for death by making our peace with God we will live in the awareness of the mystery of Death. Apart from preparing our own selves for death, we can also help others to be prepared for the same. As Christians we belong to a Parish and a Ward where we put our faith into practice in a tangible way, namely we can give spiritual and moral support to a parishioner, a neighbour or a family member when he/she is faced with sickness or death.
In the Year of Mercy proclaimed by Pope Francis, he has encouraged us to reach out to others. Visiting the sick is a Corporal Work of Mercy and a Christian can combine it with the Spiritual Works of Mercy – especially to counsel the doubtful, admonish sinners, comfort the afflicted, forgive offences, bear patiently with those who do us ill, pray for the living and the dead. Yes, when we visit the sick, especially those with terminal illnesses we can pray with them, give them our moral support, our reassurance that they are on a journey and we are all co-pilgrims with them. We can really strengthen their faith, help them to be positive, have inner freedom and enable them to face death fearlessly.
When we visit Jesus in a Church or a Chapel and stay in His real presence, we can speak to Him about our fears and perhaps we may realize that among all our fears the fear of death is the biggest!! Instead of avoiding funerals if we attend them and console bereaved families we will find we are better prepared to face our own death. Another important point to be borne in mind when caring for the sick and the dying, is to reveal the truth about the diagnosis, to the concerned person, be it adult or child however grave it may be. A case has been reported where a child was dying of blood cancer. The parents were advised by some to tell him about his sickness; but some others suggested that they hide the truth from him. However, the child came to know the facts from his friends. Sadly, he was very hurt by this and felt terribly let down by his parents.
The Catholic Catechism gives some practical tips which may help a person throughout life, or when faced with sickness and suffering and at the hour of death. This information will help us all to maintain good health of both mind as well as body:
– We can improve our way of living with prayer, meditation, Yoga, walks, exercise, etc.
– Keeping a peaceful mind. Avoiding anger and a stressful life. Unforgiveness, stress and resentment can cause a lot of health problems, even cancer.
– Having faith that along with medication, God’s healing power can work wonders.
– Attending Healing Retreats.
– Following a balanced diet.
– Avoiding quarrels in the family and the community.
The Sick and Dying need a special kind of care. Some of their needs are as follows:
– Physical needs: Providing a comfortable bed and also keeping them clean; the care-giver should note that medication, proper diet and sufficient fluids are taken according to requirement.
– Biological needs: temperature regulation, bladder and bowel movements have to be monitored.
– Safety and security needs: When health fails, the person senses that the end is near and begins to feel insecure; when death pangs begin, the person loses confidence in the doctor or the nurse and insecurity gets enhanced. In both these situations our physical presence, moral support, praying over the patient and giving courage will help a lot.
In my experience, persons who have been diagnosed with cancer are often in denial, fearing the worst, that is, loss of their job, popularity and dear ones, and this often tempts them to fail in taking their medication regularly, Helping them to pour out their fears and sorrow by giving them a listening ear will surely encourage them and give them a feeling of security.
Love and patience are needed at all times. Some family members may think ‘anyway the person is going to die’ so why worry too much about their needs ! This is not a right attitude. We should always take care of the patient’s needs, encouraging the patient, giving them our support and helping them to maintain their confidence in whatever way possible even if the person seems to have lost hope .
It will be kindness too, to gently help the dying person, especially in the case of a parent or a spouse, to see to his/her final commitments such as unfinished business and settling of their Will, as well as receiving the Last Sacraments; and in the case of persons who have kept anger and closed his/her heart to others – to make peace and get reconciled. The Beatitudes tell us: “Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called children of God ”. You will receive a great blessing when you help a person to die,
making peace with God and with one’s neighbour!
To conclude, we have come alone into this world and finally have to go back to God with a clean mind, heart and soul. May all of us achieve this goal! And may we all have a peaceful and Holy Death!
Note : Pictures for illustration only
Tilliola RC Peris and her husband, the late John Peris , her companion for 53 years, were Coffee Planters for 34 years. Thereafter due to health reasons they shifted to their house in Mangaluru town. “Tilly”, as she is better known, is a deeply spiritual person and an active social worker. Many a grieving and sad soul finds solace in her company. Today at the age of 77 she would put a younger person to shame, as she never wastes time but keeps herself busy helping people of all castes and creeds who are in dire need of help.