Yesterday, I attended a forum with religious leaders from different faiths discussing end-of-life issues, held by the Albuquerque branch of Compassion and Choices. The panelists included the Rev. George Reynolds of the Aquinas Newman Center; Rabbi Min Kantrowitz of Jewish Family Services; Rev. Steven Tvedt of Solamor Hospice, and the Rev. Jan Hosea from St. Chad’s Episcopal Church. The moderator was Samuel Roll, PhD.
Here are some comments from the panelists that I’d like to share with you.
From Rev. Jan Hosea:
We need to see the cup as half full, not half empty, and be living to live, not living to die. People dread getting to the threshold, but not crossing it. Pain is a part of life and death, and it can be difficult – that can’t be overlooked or minimized. People want understanding when they’re hurting.
Bad things happen to good people. We can’t always fix things, but we can be there, present, for others. Caregiving to the caregiver helps the dying person who’s worried about their surviving loved one.
Advance directives allow you to parse out your power as an individual for some control at end-of-life. So many people don’t want to talk about funeral plans, but the time to talk about them is around the coffee table, not the hospital bed
Weddings and funerals bring out the worst in people. Working ahead we can keep the unwanted from coming out at these times. Funerals are for the living and holding that family unit together.
Rabbi Min Kantrowitz:
The Talmud teaches you want to repent the day before you die. As we never know when that day will be, we want to have real, 100% conversations with our loved ones. Choose life, and accept death as a part of the natural process.
Death is supposed to be “as calm as drawing out a hair from a glass of milk.” While to save a life is to save a whole world, it is okay to remove impediments to death and allow it to happen.
Rev. Steven Tvedt:
Death is something we don’t do very well – we only do it once. We as a society set it aside in a corner and mask it as much as we can. God determines the boundaries of life, and I believe in a divine healing. Yet, everyone in the Bible dies, including Lazarus who was raised from the dead. Without advance directives, oughts and shoulds get confused.
I run into people who say “I’m spiritual but not religious” more in New Mexico than anywhere else.
Rev. George Reynolds:
It’s not about the dying, but the planting. If you can’t have a good time at a funeral, why go? We as a society don’t use the word death – you pass, like “passing gas.” Those who have a strong faith have better strength to handle death.
There can be death with dignity with no special intervention. The idea of keeping people alive just to keep them alive is cruel.
Some interested thoughts to ponder! I’ll post other thoughts from this event soon.