Daily Devotion for Friday 8th December 2023

Friday, 8 December 2023 Dying with Grace
Be ready, be seated, see what courage sounds like. See how brave it is to reveal yourself in this way. But above all see what it is to live, to profoundly influence the lives of others after you are gone, by your words, by your memories, by your stories
 
Paul Kalanithi, When Breath becomes Air  
I was once visiting a patient in hospital. The family were round his bedside, unsure of what to say, they asked if I would pray. In the prayerful silence I felt something spiritually stir in the room which became alive with a waiting expectation. As I laid my hand on his head, I prayed that God would welcome him home and within 10 seconds, the man breathed his last breath. 

As we become the Divine Midwife’s assistants, we open up our senses to be more aware of our surroundings and the sense of peace which emerges. The family noticed the change in our environment, and felt totally at peace.

Before the NHS was born, death was common in the home, and once a person died, the lady who lived three doors down from you, would come, wash the body, and lay them out for the undertaker.  Death was as natural as giving birth, however hospitals emerged and were focused on wellness, not taking care of people who near the end of life. Hence families have forgotten how to react or behave when someone dies, whether it’s at home, hospital, hospices or care homes.

As Death Doulas, we teach that death is a natural process, and give confidence to actually be with the person who is dying, not to be fearful but to stay by their side. We answer questions with honesty and enable the person to die with grace. 

For everyone involved in the death and dying process, support is always given and warmly received. So another role of mine, as an End-of-Life Doula, is teaching, informing people about good practice of companionship in the final stages of a person’s life, and partnerships with local NHS palliative care teams to provide good End-of-Life care in my area. 

The Divine Midwife of Death is always at work, so as an assistant, I centre myself ready to be used.         

How do you behave and react when someone we love is dying?

Prayer

God of Grace,
as I centre myself before you, I offer:
my heart to feel empathy and compassion 
my mouth and lips to speak words of love 
my eyes to witness the transforming birthing from life to death
my ears to listen to gentle murmurs of untold stories 
and myself to be guided in what to say and do.
Allow me Lord to gently nestle on the wave of your heartbeat 
knowing that the work of being your Divine Midwife assistant is never over.
Amen

Today’s writer

The Rev’d Ruth Dillon is a retired URC minister, member at Glenorchy URC, Exmouth and the Quakers Community, Exmouth and an End of life Doula with End of Life UK and with Dying with Grace, affordable South Devon Doula Support

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