A Good Death

“Death and taxes are the only two sure things in life!” Death is something we will all have to deal with and ultimately experience. Can we experience a good death?

In my work as a hospice chaplain, I deal with death and dying every day. Often folks wonder how I can deal with such a difficult matter day in and day out. “It must be terribly depressing” they comment. But the reality of my work is that it is a great blessing for me as I am involved in people’s lives at such intimate and intense moments. I have had many wonderful opportunities to be with patients and families who experience a “good death.” Now some may take issue with the notion of a good death arguing that death is always sad and depressing. But I maintain that there are times when death is welcomed and greeted as a friend! When someone has lived a long life, is at peace with themselves, their family and the world, has a strong faith, is at home surrounded by family and friends and is pain free, death is most often welcomed. I have had the privilege of being with many of our patients, some in their 90s and 100s, who with clarity of mind, look forward to death as a blessing releasing them from their failing bodies and ushering them into the next life. While there is sadness for the loss and separation from their loved one. most families consider a loss under these circumstances as a good death!

Of course there are many deaths that are unwelcomed, difficult and painful. The death of a child or young person, a suffering demise or a sudden death of a healthy thriving adult is always tragic. These deaths are heartbreaking and grieving is a long term and painful process.

How can we plan for a good death? First, we must think ahead and fill out a living will making known our desires about life support and end of life treatment. It is also wise to appoint a health care proxy in the event we are unable to make decisions. Second, when possible make ones funeral desires known and when feasible do a prepaid arrangement. Third, nurture your faith, life and relationship with God because ultimately your faith will provide you with an anchor through the storms of life! Fourth, live one day at a time and tell those whom you love. A good death is possible with forethought, faith and love. May it be so!