May 3, 2015: When you love someone enough to allow them to die

Posted on : Apr 30th, 2015 | By | Category: This Sunday's Service

Here’s an odd fact. Most Christians love to celebrate Easter but are terrified of death and dying.

I was once talking with a colleague about this oddity and she suggested it might be because when someone we really love and who we’re really close to dies, it is such a personal, painful loss that it is hard to celebrate it. No sooner had she said that than we both looked at each other and broke into laughter. Uh, Jesus is someone whom we really love and who we strive to be really close to throughout our lives. Right?

I think the reason we have these two different feelings about death and resurrection is that few of us have ever experienced what I called “a good death” or a good dying process. The first few times I was with someone as they died, I was anxious and afraid also. But over the years, and especially in journeying with so many of our friends during the “death cycle” years of the AIDS pandemic, I learned that death could be a good and kind experience.

Our state legislature is once again considering a “death-with-dignity” measure. The need for this measure was once again humanized for us in the story of Brittany Maynard. About a month before her death which occurred on All Saints Day, November 1, 2014, Brittany left her friends and family here in California and moved to Oregon so she could legally end her own life with medication. Three months after her death, Brittany’s husband and mother stood with nine other California lawmakers to announce legislation that would allow physicians in this state to prescribe medication to hasten death for the terminally ill.

At the news conference, Brittany’s husband said, “She recognized that to stay in California would mean that she potentially would face a horrific death. Brittany was a Californian. We lived in this state and she would have preferred to pass away peacefully in this state,” her husband said.

In addition to Oregon, four other states also allow terminally ill patients to seek medical help to die. Montana, New Mexico, Vermont and Washington. Legislation to permit it in California has failed twice, opposed on religious grounds and by many doctors and advocates for those with disabilities.

Why are Christians so opposed to allowing those who are terminally ill – those who are going to die – to have the option and access to medications which would allow them to die more peacefully and with dignity?

There is a wonderful newer song that is often sung at Baptisms, Confirmations and sometimes, funerals called: “I Was There to Hear Your Borning Cry.”   The song is about our life-cycle from birth through resurrection. The fourth stanza is especially beautiful, I believe. “The evening closing in” is a metaphor of death. Here are the words:

When the evening gently closes in
and you shut your weary eyes,
I’ll be there as I have always been
with just one more surprise.

In all of my experiences with those who are dying, the vast majority of people when offered a choice about how they want to die, would choose the experience named in the beautiful words above. We want death to be as gentle as closing our weary eyes – just like falling asleep at night when you are “dead tired.” (Yes, this is where that metaphor comes from!)

This Sunday I’ll be speaking about the Christian perspective on dying which allows for a compassionate, gentle death, with the assistance of medication.




~ This Sunday’s Scripture ~

Romans 8: 31-39

In face of all this, what is there left to say? If God is for us, who can be against us? God, who gave Christ for us all – can we not trust such a God to give us everything else that we can need?

Who can separate us from the love of Christ? Can trouble, pain or persecution? Can lack of clothes and food, danger to life and limb, the threat of force of arms? 

No, in all these things we win an overwhelming victory through Christ who has proved God’s love for us.

I have become absolutely convinced that neither death nor life, neither messenger of Heaven, nor monarch of earth, neither what happens today nor what may happen tomorrow, neither a power from on high nor a power from below, nor anything else in God’s whole world has any power to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus, our Savior!

Leave a Reply