Thursday, February 21, 2008

Dying Well

I buried a good man today.
I was his minister 20 years ago. He sold cool drinks at the church fete; his dry sense of humour got me though the insecure first months in a new congregation; I officiated at his son’s wedding. And then I moved on to other congregations, and we lost touch.

Until a few years ago when his wife joined my congregation. I asked how he was and she said he was fine – but that he no longer wanted to attend church. And I said that this was OK, and that God did not love him any less. Then last year I heard from a number of people that I should “go and pray with him because he has liver cancer”. But Pierre himself had not asked me. So I prayed for him, but did not intrude on his life.

Towards then end of last year he asked me to come and visit him. And I rekindled our friendship. His sense of humour was as welcome as ever; his spirituality was deeply peaceful; he knew that he was dying and was thankful for a life well-lived. He told me that he had stopped going to church at the time of a heart operation. He described the rudeness of people who had visited him in the hospital ward and attempted to “convert” him. He spoke of his hurt at the way they had insulted his faith, and his character. And he resolved not to return to church. He described how he felt closest to God in nature, and of how he loved to sit in the silence of a game park and thank God for his life.

We were able to speak about dying well, of the love of God for him, and of taking leave of his family and friends. We celebrated his wedding anniversary with his family and friends. His sons cared for their dying father in ways appropriate to their characters. I prayed with him and his wife each day at lunch time. I was privileged to be with the family when he died last Thursday evening. And God was with him – and with his family.

Today we celebrated a life well lived.
Pierre Snyders: Go with God.

1 comment:

David Barbour said...

Yes, I can relate re. the hospital bit. The folk lying in bed don't have a chance at times with some rabid evangelicals. I visited a lady who was very anti church and I purposefully didn't raise religious matters in order to win trust etc. A 'gentlemen' arrived to visit and stood at the end of the bed and read a passage of scripture and gave us a sermon.. I was horrified. She crawled back into her shell.