Hope for the Journey: Meaningful Support for the Terminally Ill
Suffering strikes us as fundamentally wrong. How many times have we heard, “No one should have to suffer”? In a perfect world, there would be no suffering. (That would be heaven.) In this world, to eliminate suffering we would have to eliminate breathing. It’s an unfortunate, unavoidable part of every life.
When you consider the volume and depth of interior work involved in completing a life, our meager efforts to help seem so insignificant. But I’ve seen what an extraordinary difference even one person can make in the life of a suffering person.
The words “hope” and “terminal illness” don’t seem to belong in the same sentence. But hope is exactly what’s needed to stay engaged in living while shouldering the burden of an uncertain future. The opposite of hope is despair, and despair is a living hell. For the terminally ill, the absence of hope leads to the “death row” mentality, a place where suicide seems to make perfect sense.
Confronting Our Own Fears I’m convinced that what makes us afraid, what makes us embarrassed, what makes us want to run from the room is not only the presence of the suffering person, but also our own “issues.” It helps to revisit the story of our own lives, especially the part about our own sufferings and those of loved ones, and our previous experiences with death. If there is unresolved grief, it will surely cast a shadow over the present situation.
“If There’s Anything I Can Do . “
We are the body of Christ. Our role in the life of the terminally ill may be pastor, lay minister, family member or friend, and carrying out those roles is important and meaningful. In addition, we all have unique, individual gifts to offer. There’s no need to ask the suffering person for direction. We know what to do. It takes prayer, courage and determination to stay engaged in the daily relay of care for our suffering brothers and sisters. Like everything else we do in the service of such a generous God, our efforts will produce fruit in abundance.
and blessed are those who stood quietly in the rain.
Theirs shall be the harvest; for them the fruits .
from The Book of Hours
Kathy Kalina, RN, CRNH, is the author of two books, Midwife for Souls: Spiritual Care for the Dying and Living the Final Season.