Category: Death

Finding Humor and Hope in the Graveyard

This might sound morbid to some people, but I’ve always been fascinated by the subject of death. As a youth, I found funerals much more interesting than weddings. And growing up in the Roman Catholic tradition, I thought Catholic funerals were particularly remarkable ceremonies. I can still remember the unique smell of incense filling the church at the first funeral…

Memento Mori: Facing Our Mortality

As a child, the first time death hit home for me was when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963. And even though more than 50 years have passed, I still distinctly remember two things about the event. First, I remember the shock and sadness expressed by my parents when they heard of the president’s death. My parents were…

How to Think about Near-Death Experiences

Stories of heavenly visions, like the one at the center of the upcoming film Heaven Is for Real (based on the near-death experience of a four-year-old Nebraska boy), can have a powerful effect on people. They can inspire our imaginations, tug on our emotions, and stir our spirits because they address one of the most haunting questions humans face (or…

No Exit from Suffering

I recently underwent some rather invasive medical exams that required me to spend some time in a medical facility. Lying in a hospital bed staring at the ceiling and waiting to see the doctor forced me, once again, to philosophize about the big questions of life and death. A lot of people go to great lengths to avoid thinking about…

Thinking about Suffering and Death, Part 4

Christians often talk about what it means to live well but seldom do they discuss what it means to die well. So what is a “good death”? In the context of hospice, the concept of a good death involves the easing of a dying person’s suffering. But in the broader scope of life, what constitutes a good death?

Thinking about Suffering and Death, Part 3

Courage is a virtue that I’ve always admired and respected. Growing up I was deeply impressed and proud of my father’s strength and valor as a frontline combat soldier in World War II. By extension, I appreciate and respect all people—such as noble police officers, firefighters, and soldiers—who willingly put their life on the line for others.

Thinking about Suffering and Death, Part 2

Whether it was losing a loved one, becoming the victim of a violent crime, or facing a life-threatening illness, my immediate reaction to experiences of genuine suffering has been a profound feeling of being alone in that condition. I don’t know if other people react that way to sorrow. For me, suffering is a deeply personal issue that I don’t…

Thinking about Suffering and Death, Part 1

Take it from me, here are two words you never want to hear come out of your doctor’s mouth—“brain cancer!” Last May, hall of fame baseball catcher Gary Carter was diagnosed with this dreaded illness. When I read the sad news that Carter’s most recent MRI revealed new tumors in his brain, I felt a deep sense of empathy for…

Future Things: What Is a “Good Death”?, Part 9 (of 12)

The word euthanasia comes from the Greek language and literally means “good or happy death” (eu = “good” or “happy,” thanatos = “death”). In the context of hospice, the concept of a good death involves the easing of a dying person’s suffering. But in the broader scope of life, what constitutes a good death? Christians talk a lot about what…