Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Message of the Week

The "Message of the Week appears in the Winston-Salem Journal each Friday. Our Hospice is scheduled to supply the column twice a year. I was asked to write this Fall's column. Here it is.

This is such a beautiful time of the year. It’s a time when our side of the earth tilts away from the sun and we take our turn in the darkness of longer nights. The land uses the darkness to heal and let go of the busyness of summer. Some insects die off, some sleep and the trees release the leaves from tethers that nourished them in the heat of summer days and preserved them through summer storms. It’s a time of gathering and taking stock in the terms of traditional family farming.

Dying is also a time of letting go and taking stock for those who are making that transition and for those who are caring for them. Over the last century, dying has become an artificial struggle of life against death and the sterile coldness of medical science has made the natural processes of death a sort of enemy. The Hospice Movement restores the richness of the warm and artful practice of medicine in which death is a part of living when it comes in God’s time. It saddens me as a minister to hear that people believe that Hospice is about death when those of us who love our patients and our work see it as life-giving and full of positive human experience even when things get harder than we like.

If we are among those who only see the autumn as an annoying season of obnoxious leaf blowers and leaf collection trucks at the curb, it may be difficult to fully appreciate God’s gift to us in the season. If we only see dying as a time of failure and hope only in clicking, beeping robots plugged into human bodies to keep them alive for a few more days, then we miss God’s gift of a peaceful, humane death.

The book of Ecclesiastes is often quoted as evidence that God’s timing is perfect. It says that there is a time to be born and a time to die. Just as we can be certain that the earth will continue it’s rotation and our friends in the Southern hemisphere will experience fall about six months from now, we will pass through our time of darkness and emerge into rebirth and spring. The ministry of Hospice is to midwife us through the difficult transitions in the last season of life. Hospice tries to make every moment of that time as comfortable and sacred as possible using the very best of the science and art of medicine, the very deepest of human compassion, and the finest expression of God’s love.

Chaplain Ken Bradstock
Hospice and Palliative CareCenter


At Thursday, 11 November, 2004 , Blogger Marjorie said...

What a beautiful article. I loved your desciption of autumn and its parallel in dying. You take the fear out of dying -- what a gift you have.

(formerly known as Sparky)


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