Windows and Doors

Windows and Doors


Dying Well

posted by Brad Hirschfield

There are many understandings of dying well but few extol the value of loneliness. And the hospice chaplains described in this article know that, beyond all else. It’s powerful stuff which transcends any particular faith or ideology. In, fact, many of the people doing chaplaincy are not clergy at all. Perhaps that is why they are so good at what they do? Perhaps. But they are definitely people who are a great deal like God, at least the one (the One?) who reveals Him- or Herself to Moses at their first meeting.
These chaplains serve all comers and do so by starting with the needs of the person in front of them, not the ideology inside of them. They are Buddhists who work with atheists, former priests who pray Hebrew prayers with Jews, etc.
In each case they privilege presence over dogma, not unlike the God who says to Moses when asked how to answer the question about who sent him to free the Israelites. “Tell them”, God says, “I will be what I will be”. As the future unfolds God will be as needed. Who better than these hospice chaplains lives that message every day?
And if it’s good enough for God, shouldn’t that approach be good enough for all religious leaders too? Of course, theology, philosophy and doctrine matter too. But as we die, which will we really want, the person who puts us first, or the one who puts their particular practice first?



  • chaim baruch-chaim

    “These chaplains serve all comers and do so by starting with the needs of the person in front of them, not the ideology inside of them.”
    Would that we could all respond to others thus – and thus be responded to! It is not a realistic expectation but it is an goal worthy of aspiring to.

  • Berta

    Isn’t it interesting how this type of a blog gets little attention—a very part of our birth right-dying and we do whatever we can to run the other way as if it’s so unnatural…
    Chaim baruch-chaim…well said and we can dream that someday we as a society may actually reach the level where we think in terms of another’s needs before our own agenda!
    I once gave some time to Hospice work; I volunteered to just spend time with anyone who needed someone to sit by their side in dialog or quietness. Being a sales person I found it difficult to keep from talking. One of the greatest gifts I received was how much is said in the “quietness”! I had to stop after some time as I grew to love each and every person I met and letting go has and still is a difficult emotion in my life. The experience gave me strength when years later I walked through my sister’s departure. I don’t think anyone wants to be alone at this moment in our lives..

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