July 2, 2008

Thought for 07.02.08

Isn’t it strange that we take more care over a funeral than over a dying person? We treat the comatose dying person as ‘a vegetable’ (what an assault on human dignity!) but treat the dead body with incredible ritual respect. Haven’t we got it backwards or at least unbalanced?

With special thanks and prayers for all who serve in hospice work and hospital chaplaincy, and those beginning their CPE this summer.

Tobias Haller BSG

8 comments:

FranIAm said...

Oh my- your words ring so true.

I am sending this to my friend who does hospice.

Marshall said...

I, for one hospital chaplain, appreciate the prayers. Those we serve, and we who serve, need all the prayer we can get. This will stimulate a reaction....

And, if anyone is interested in some folks experiences of CPE this summer, you can link to them here .

Marshall said...

And so, here is the reaction. Let me share my closing.

"So, if we “treat the comatose dying person as ‘a vegetable’,” I think it is an expression, and not a denial, of human dignity. In fact the care in many ways does parallel the careful, intent work of the gardener, attentive and concerned, rather than neglect. Families and professionals may perhaps care too much, in the sense of exceeding the wishes of the patient; but they do care, and in doing so demonstrate that they indeed attribute dignity and value to the patient. They do care, often at the expense of body and mind and pocketbook, and even their own dignity.; and I am honored to have the vocation of caring for them."

PseudoPiskie said...

I've always wondered why we pray for the dead when the living are usually the ones who are suffering and need our God's help to still find meaning in their lives. The dead are mostly already on the other side and in God's loving care. Sometimes religion confuses me.

Tobias Haller said...

Thank you, Marhsall. As I noted at your site, my intent was aimed at those who use "vegetable" dismissively -- as if consciousness were the only quality of human life worth acknowledging. I realize not all feel that way, and God bless those who respect and work with and among the dying -- hence my prayers. But I was also thinking of the family members who never bother to darken the door of the hospital, but wouldn't miss the funeral -- which becomes a kind of substitute or surrogate token for the care that might have been given. (In this, Pseudopiskie is on the mark in the point she raises). So no offense was intended and I'm sorry if any was taken, for those who actually do care, and you and all of them (including my brother Thomas Mark, who is a hospice worker in Westchester) have my great admiration for that work.

Country Parson (Steven Woolley) said...

Today at 3 p.m. I will lead the prayers for the dying at the bedside of my friend. She will be surrounded by her family and a few friends. It will be a time of love, tears and farewells. In a few days the family will gather again for a small Eucharistic funeral in the morning and an enormous community wide memorial in the afternoon. There is nothing but profound holy dignity in all of that.

Marshall said...

Well, thanks, Tobias. I really did recognize the respect.

It's not really about offense, although I started there. I think you do highlight the paradox in our appreciation of human dignity: that often we will attribute to others dignity we will not allow ourselves.

And I agree, Pseudopiskie, that you have a point. We need more prayer for the living (although, once again, I think there are those who somehow don't think themselves worthy of our prayers, whether they might need them or not). And as for the dead: "as we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses," perhaps the issue isn't whether we pray for them but what we pray for.

Tobias Haller said...

Yes, CP. That is as it should be. Too often that isn't what happens... which is why the ministry of chaplain is so vital. Due to the economy, many hospitals are cutting back on chaplaincy and other "spiritual" elements in their environments; and this is a tragic loss for the dying and their families.