Good question. For a Christian, the answer should be a resounding no, but even if you are assured of your salvation, there is a fear of the unknown. Will dying hurt? What about the people I’m leaving behind? It’s the unanswered questions that haunt us.
(If you’re not a Christian, then the answer is yes, very. Just sayin’.)
Normally, I don’t read non-fiction. I read primarily for entertainment and I’m not one that finds non-fiction particularly enjoyable. Sometimes, but it’s the exception to the rule. For me, it’s all about the story and that’s one thing most non-fiction books lack. A notable exception was the final story told by Ruth Bell Graham in her book Legacy of a Pack Rat about a woman who was dying and what she experienced in her last moments. It’s one of those stories that helps you understand that Heaven is real. I read that story almost 30 years ago and it has stayed with me all this time because it really touched me.
When I saw an offer for a free book written by a Hospice nurse of over 25 years, I picked it up hoping for more stores like the one I had read in Ruth Bell Graham’s book. While it had some similar elements, Glimpses of Heaven was more about what the author learned about God in all the years of being with people as they died. And she learned some very profound truths. It should be no surprise that Jesus, our wonderful shephard, cares for His sheep at the end of their lives. We’re not left alone to die. Quite the opposite–God is with us when we need Him most and taking that step from living into eternity is certainly a time when we need Him.
Trudy Harris describes people in the last stages of dying that are at peace because family members who have died or angels or Jesus or a familiar setting provides them peace. Are they hallucinating? Who knows. But it seems likely to me and to the author, that God knows best what will comfort us in a difficult time. And if the person who is dying is at peace, then it goes a long way to providing peace for their family as well.
In my life, I’ve gone to my share of funerals. The first I remember was when I was eight years old and my father died. My mother and I had walked down to the elementary school one evening for a PTA program. My father stayed at home because he wasn’t feeling well. When we returned, we found him lying on the floor in the den where he had collapsed with a rag in his hand. My dad was in the habit of using an old rag to wipe the dust off the TV screen and it looks like that was where he was headed when the heart-attack took him. Needless to say, it was a shock. No eight year old is prepared to have a parent die. It had a profound effect on my life and relationships. In the back of my head, I can’t help but wonder when the people close to me are going to die. I don’t mean to do it, it’s just where my head goes.
It takes longer to get to a place of peace with the unexpected death of a loved one because it is so difficult to get closure. But the one thing I’ve learned is that even if someone you love dies, you are never alone because God is with you. I trust in God.
My husband’s grandmother, a spitfire of a woman named Pauline (Polly) Moxley, died the week of Christmas almost ten years ago. I still smile whenever I think of Polly. She had such a matter-of-fact manner and wasn’t shy telling you what she thought. When she got sick, my mother-in-law went to stay with her and hospice was there as well. When she reached the end, only a couple of weeks after she had gotten sick, we had time to get to her house and be there with family for a couple of days before she passed. Knowing someone is dying and being able to spend time with them and say good-bye, especially to someone who has lived a long and complete life, is a very different experience than someone dying with no warning. Peace and closure come much faster when you have time to say good-bye. It doesn’t mean you don’t mourn though.
I found comfort reading Glimpses of Heaven. Of course, I can’t help but be a little paranoid. I’m reading this book that I normally would never read (because it’s non-fiction). Is it because someone I know is going to die of a protracted illness in the near future? There’s no coincidence, there’s only God, right? Sadly, that’s the way my brain works for the reason I explained above. This is yet another time I’m going to trust God and let it go. So instead of wondering who’s going to die, I’m going to take this opportunity to offer you a resource if this is a topic near and dear to your heart. The author wrote it to comfort the dying and grieving, and it is a comfort. It’s also a comfort to me, who at the moment is neither dying or grieving. :)
Do you have any experience with someone close to you dying that you’d like to share?