It’s important to affirm life at the time of death Print
Thursday, Oct. 26, 2017 -- 12:00 AM

As we approach the end of October observed as Respect Life Month and All Souls’ Day on November 2, our thoughts turn towards the end of life.

I think our society today avoids issues of suffering and death. Some say we live in a “death-defying and death-denying” society.

Denying death

As Jeffery A. Johnson says in an article called “Denial: The American Way of Death” (, modern Americans seems to be “preoccupied with the preservation of youth and beauty.” He says that “society seems content to cling to the illusion that youth — and life — can last forever.”

Johnson points out that one contributing factor to a changing view of death is that it is often hidden from us. The dying used to remain in their homes, and their primary caretakers were family members. Children were present through the dying process and were involved in funerals.

But the dying process has changed with family members moving away from each other and being cared for outside the home. Many people now die in hospitals or health care facilities, sometimes with no family members or friends to visit them.

Personal experiences

We experienced the death of my mother-in-law, Ruth, this year. She lived at All Saints Assisted Living in Madison (a wonderful place), but we spent a lot of time with her.

As her health deteriorated, she received hospice care but was able to stay at All Saints. She had priest friends, a Sister, family, and friends who visited her frequently and prayed with her.

Just a few weeks before she died, she celebrated her 91st birthday. Our granddaughter who likes to bake made her a cake (like her great-grandmother usually did), and we celebrated with a party at our home. Another granddaughter’s birthday was the same week as Ruth’s, so they made a wish and blew out the candles together. It was a happy remembrance for all of us.

When Ruth was dying, our children and grandchildren visited her. They were able to experience what was happening with her. One of our granddaughters initiated a family hug!

Affirming life and faith

I think it’s important that in the midst of death and suffering, we affirm the importance of life.

Faith was also very important to Ruth. She prayed the Rosary every day and attended daily Mass as often as she could. It was touching to see her attempt to follow the prayers in her last days.

I hope people will spend time with their dying family members and friends — it can be a beautiful experience. Life should be lived right up to the moment of death!