Be glad in the Lord and rejoice! Psalm 32:11

Sunday, November 3, 2013

November is National Hospice Month! Guest Post by Gary Roe, author of "Saying Goodbeye - Facing The Loss of a Loved One"

November marks National Hospice Month, and my good friend, Pastor Gary Roe, has written a beautiful and thought-provoking article marking this important event!

Is It Possible to Embrace Death as a Part of Life?

By Gary Roe

At the end of the book of Genesis, Jacob sensed that he was about to die. He called his sons together and spoke to each of them. His words included blessings, warnings, hints about the future, and instructions about his burial. When Jacob finished speaking, he drew his feet up into the bed, breathed his last and was gathered to his people (Gen. 49:33).

Jacob passed peacefully at home, surrounded by his family.

Death was seen as a part of life, a natural event occurring in the normal course of the family. Many times, everything was taken care of at home. In our day, death has become something very different.

Researchers call us a death-denying society. We see death as being removed from us, an event that happens in hospitals, nursing homes, and on highways. We don’t see or interact with it much, though our entertainment is permeated by it. Action movies are full of harrowing escapes and our superheroes are virtually indestructible. Because we don’t deal directly with death, we’re also fascinated by it. Just check out all the paranormal, horror, zombie-type options out there.

But when death touches us personally, things change dramatically. When it strikes, it’s often seen as the end of hopes, dreams, and relationships. The grief can be so intense it’s like the soul is being ripped apart. Life is forever altered. We’re just not prepared for this.

In the book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon said, “God has put eternity in the human heart (3:11).” We know death is coming, but we also instinctively know it is not the end. Paul said, “The last enemy to be destroyed is death (1 Cor. 15:26).” Jesus Christ himself experienced death and defeated it, rising from the dead to seal the deal for all who put their trust in him. Eternity was so clear in the hearts and minds of New Testament believers that dying was termed falling asleep.

Death is deeply spiritual. It’s coming, but few of us prepare our hearts for it. As a result, our grip on eternity is less than it could be.

November is Hospice Month – an opportunity to consider what quality end-of-life care is all about. 

I call my visits with hospice patients and families eternal moments. Those times can be powerful glimpses into eternity - a leaning forward into what is to come. The patient is on the edge of forever, and their loved ones are right there with them. For me, hospice is a return to Jacob and Genesis 49, with death being a transition – a soul departing surrounded by family and friends.

Of course, not everyone can die at home. We care for patients in assisted living facilities, nursing homes, and hospitals – wherever we’re needed and wanted. Every situation is different because every family is unique. Ultimately the dying process (like life) is all about relationships. 

Hospice is a team effort with doctors, nurses, aides, social workers, chaplains, and a host of administrative staff working together to ease the load, allowing family to provide the best quality of life for their loved one whatever the situation. We walk with families through this valley – teaching, comforting, supporting, and encouraging. Loved ones can relax a little, enjoy one another, and know they’re not alone in this strange journey.

Together, we get to lean into eternity.

What if the dying process could be filled with joy, laughter, appreciation, forgiveness, love, and fewer regrets? I believe this is possible. This is what hospice is all about.

So here’s to dealing with death well so we can lean more into eternity. It will be hard, but together we can do it.


 About The Author:
Gary Roe is an author and chaplain with Hospice Brazos Valley in Bryan, Texas. He can be reached at groe@hospicebrazosvalley.org or www.garyroe.com

Gary's book, "Saying Goodbye - Facing The Loss of a Loved One," is a wonderfully comforting book dealing with loss and grief.  It is available at amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com, and anywhere inspirational books are available.

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