Parting: A Handbook for Spiritual Care Near the End of Life

Copyright Date: 2004
Pages: 80
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    At times we may be called to be companions on a journey we would rather not take--the journey of a loved one toward the end of life. For those who choose to serve as close companions of terminally ill relatives or friends,Partingoffers the collective wisdom of people from many cultures and faith traditions as a "travel guide" for meaningful companionship--helping someone toward a peaceful transition from this life. Sections of the book discuss how to cross the bridge from ordinary conversation to spiritual reflection; how to provide comforts for the body, mind, and soul; and how to care for yourself while concentrating on the needs of another. Transcending any specific religion or culture, this handbook addresses universal spiritual needs.Designed for easy reading by weary travelers, this practical, pocket-sized guide prepares the spiritual companion for an enriching experience, even on the journey toward life's end. It is an indispensable tool for family members and friends, hospice workers, religious leaders, counselors, and medical providers.

    eISBN: 978-1-4696-0469-5
    Subjects: Health Sciences

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. ix-x)
    J. Richard Williams

    This handbook seeks specifically to assist anyone who chooses to serve as a close companion for a terminally ill relative or friend. These companions are truly the unsung heroes of end-of-life care. Our hope is that the handbook will teach them how to include spiritual care in companionship.

    What do we mean by spiritual care? Spiritual care for the purpose of this handbook is soul care, helping the human spirit in its search for peace. It is the attempt to help those near the end of life feel whole, fulfilled, and in harmony with their world and their higher power....

  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
    Larry R. Churchill

    Why are we here?

    How can we understand and find meaning in suffering?

    What is death, and what happens after death?

    To ask and seek answers to these questions is to engage in spiritual work. This volume is a handbook on spiritual care of the dying, yet its purpose is not to address these big questions per se—still less to answer them. Rather, it serves as a practical guide to how people who are dying tend to approach these questions and how their friends and family may act as companions to accompany them on this final journey.

    The authors,...

  6. 1 Setting Out
    (pp. 1-7)

    What would we give to have such peace surround the death of one we love? Of course, sometimes it is out of our reach. We have no control over sudden death, for example, and mean-spirited relatives can make a person’s last days and hours more difficult than they ought to be. The dying may suffer from dementia and be unable to converse or even recognize family members. But it is possible, more often than people think, for death to be a spiritual blessing to those who are leaving as well as those who are left behind. Peace and meaning can...

  7. 2 A Personal Journey
    (pp. 8-21)

    Emmy’s story illustrates how very personal the journey toward death is for each one of us. The unique blend of culture, family history, religious tradition, personality, and physical and spiritual characteristics that make people who they are in life also shape who they will be in death. The one who is dying must lead the way. Few people want their departure from life to be solitary. Isolation and loneliness are unutterably painful at the end of life, and terminally ill people usually treasure companionship of any sort. Emmy loved to have people come in and read the day’s headlines, watch...

  8. 3 Spiritual Scenery
    (pp. 22-31)

    For the journey with your loved one near the end of life, you both need scenery to distract you from what can be a long, hard trip. You need sights and sounds to draw out your imagination. You need rest stops to replenish your energy.

    Every human life has the makings of spiritual scenery. The raw materials are home and family, culture, religion, heritage, and the experiences and traditions that make your life distinctive. No one can presume to know what will refresh the spirit of other weary sojourners. But spiritual scenery of one kind or another fills a universal...

  9. 4 For Weary Travelers
    (pp. 32-49)

    As a spiritual companion, you will sometimes feel tired beyond belief. You may wonder why you are so exhausted when you have only been sitting by the side of the dying one, watching the hours and days tick by. Death can be relentlessly exhausting, both for the one who is leaving and for the spiritual companion. The travelers are weary, longing for closure on the one hand, yet dreading what will bring it on the other.

    Blessedly, there are comforts of body and soul for you weary ones. The restful ideas presented here harvest the best fruits of people who...

  10. 5 Parting Ways
    (pp. 50-62)

    It was almost over. The grandfather’s life seemed like a candle about to flicker out. His grandson, Jonathan, who was twenty-two and had always been unable to walk due to cerebral palsy, was saying good night to Pop, his lifelong buddy, for the last time. “I’ll be able to run to you when I see you in heaven,” Jonathan said. “And I’ll welcome you with open arms,” Pop replied softly.

    The time arrives for parting ways. The spiritual journey near the end of life may seem endless at some points, but it will end. “Parting is such sweet sorrow,” wrote...

  11. 6 Coming Home
    (pp. 63-64)

    The journey back home alone after losing a loved one is one of the loneliest of life’s experiences. The heart is often broken, the body numb with fatigue, the tears seemingly endless. Reminders seem to be everywhere of the one who has died and the void left.

    It is time for the spiritual companion to rest, to take comfort in remembering, to share feelings with friends, clergy, and counselors or in helpful bereavement support groups.

    Give yourself the gift of patience, please. The realization that everything you experience—the fatigue, the varied physical symptoms, even feeling the presence of the...