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On the Paradoxical Beauty of Dying


As most of you know, the Washington, D.C. City Council recently took a step toward legalizing physician-assisted suicide for those with less than six months to live.

Although I have written elsewhere about the dangerous implications of this legislation, in today’s post I want to stand up for the dying, at home and in nursing homes, the fully lucid and those with advanced Alzheimer’s, those who are moving toward death relatively painlessly and those who are suffering.

As a priest, it has been my privilege to accompany many people as they prepare for death. Some have gone quickly; others have lingered for years. From a pure worldly perspective, death seems little more than a calamity and a cause for great sadness. But from the perspective of faith, there is something beautiful going on.

I know you may think it bold that I describe it this way, but in the dying process something necessary and quite beautiful is taking place. It is born in pain, but if we are faithful it brings forth gifts and glory.

I have seen these gifts unfold for the many I have accompanied in death, both parishioners and members of my own family. They forgave people, said and heard important things like “I love you” for the first time in years, let go of stubborn attachments, began (perhaps for the first time) to long for God and Heaven, and experienced many other healing and powerful things. Death focuses gives perspective like nothing else. In all this there is beauty as well as needed healing before judgment day.


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