As death nears and the distractions of our culture lose their ability to command attention questions of the spirit can lead us in overlooked directions.
We may, in our journey with them, find gifts of meaning, self-knowledge, understanding and awareness. We can make greater sense of our lives and the places we’ve occupied as we have lived. Some questions that are common to many who are at the end-of-life were listed on a Bill Moyers PBS program (On Our Own Terms):
Who am I really?
Why am I suffering?
What gives meaning to what I am going through?
How will I die?
What will happen to me after I die?
Did I live a good life? Did I do my best?
Can I make peace with others? With myself?
Exploring those questions, in the company of another, can bring a measure of understanding and assurance to the end-of-life. A helpful and healthy process can bring healing to a place of discomfort and turmoil. Palliative care-givers have a variety of tools and options available to support the journey of discovery. In advising those who accompany, Edith Campbell, a chaplain to people suffering from HIV and Aids in New York wrote:
“I’ll hold the rope while you scale the depths of the cavern...You are accompanying the person on a journey. You are traveling in unknown territory together.
What the person needs is not to be told what to look at and what is beautiful or to have things explained to them. What you are able to do is to help clear the way so that person on the journey is able to tell you what they see, is able to point out to you the fullness and the beauty and the strangeness of the territory that they are going through.”
Here to listen. Here to hold the rope. The gift and blessing of accompaniment is the invitation to walk beside one who is on a journey of spiritual discovery. This path is not new.
As EM Forster said in “Howard’s End: “Death destroys a man; the idea of death saves him.” Most of the world’s religions have writings pertaining to end-of-life and the path taken by the human spirit as it lets go.
Many authors write about the meaning of life and some movies explore this theme as well. The Hospice library has many resources that can guide or enhance this passage and staff can journey with you as well.
If there is no ‘cure’ for death, a spiritual inquiry can offer peace and healing.
An element of this journey may happen internally and privately. It will be rich indeed if you invite another to join you….a special friend, a pastor or spiritual advisor, or others who also face a life-limiting illness.
Please call the Greater Trail Hospice Society offices for more information at: 250 364 6204 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.