Working as a hospital chaplain these past five years, I have attended to the deaths of hundreds of people. There have been expected deaths that came at a chosen time. There have been tragic deaths that took everyone by surprise. There have been beautiful deaths and ugly deaths. I have been at the crib-side and the bedside. I have been present where the room is overflowing with loved ones and there is barely room for me, and I have been the only presence in the room.
Recently, my chaplain work has focused on families who are or soon will be making end of life decisions on behalf of their loved ones who can no longer make decisions for themselves. I have sat in on family meetings with doctors and nurses where the circumstances and options are laid out by the medical team, and families are asked what they would like to do. In these meetings, family members are asked to think about what they believe their loved one would want in this situation. Of course, they would want to not be in this situation! But yet here they are.
Sometimes the decision is obvious and even unanimous because conversations had been had while not in crisis mode, when wishes and “what ifs” could be discussed and articulated in clear, thoughtful ways. It doesn’t mean it is easy, but it is certainly easier.
Yet we have a tendency to not want to talk about death, perhaps because we fear we are inviting it to visit us or our loved ones if we call attention to it. We see it as morbid or pessimistic to bring up the topic of death or dying, and thus less than hopeful or even polite to broach the subject during what was otherwise a pleasant time. Plus, we see it as something far off (or something we like to think is still far off) so we can always have the conversation…later.
But the truth is, we are all dying and many of us have or will experience the death of another. And we all need to talk about it. And the church is a good place for these conversations to take place.
Perhaps it was inevitable that a lecture series named after an underground cemetery would take on this topic. And so the 2015 Catacombs Lectures, sponsored by the Shepherd Bible Study class, will help begin our conversations about death, from the emotional side to the practical side to both at the same time and everything in between.
I hope you will prayerfully consider coming to the series, whether for some or all. The presentations will take place at 9:45am in the Assembly Room, located off the Lower Commons which is most easily accessed from the large back parking lot. A greeter will be just inside the doors to direct you, so don’t let unfamiliarity with the building keep you from coming.
Note: the Shepherd Class is infamous for starting on time, so get there early, particularly if you want a seat on the back row.
This is a wonderful series with thoughtful, caring, and engaging speakers. You will be blessed.
- August 2 – “The Complexity of Grief and Loss” by Dan Bagby
- August 9 – “Overview of Hospice and Palliative Care” by Seth Roberts
- August 16 – “Celebrating Lives and Comforting the Living” by Bernie Henderson (Woody Funeral Home)
- August 23 – “Have a Talk with Your Lawyer Before Saying Your Final Good-byes” by Dan Stevens
- August 30 – “Quest for a Good Death: Dealing with Ultimate Issues for Ourselves and Family” by Tom Graves
- September 6 – “The Beginning of Life from an Historical Perspective” by Libby Roberts