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Being There... for the Passing of a Loved One

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The experience of dying is often difficult, filled with fears and anxieties for both the dying and for the surviving loved ones. But death is also a mysterious and wondrous process. It involves both body and soul in the greatest transition we are ever called to make. The author has sat with hundreds of dying persons, and has learned that we don’t have to be fearful or intimidated.

This article appeared in the Fall 1999 issue of Spirituality & Health. "I hate hospitals," declared Sarah, as she prepared to visit her favorite cousin, who despite recent surgery for breast cancer had received a negative prognosis. "I'm not going," she pouted as she put on her coat and gloves. "l never know what to do or say, so I just won't go." In the hospital parking lot, Sarah was still protesting, so I took her hand and spoke quietly. "This is a very difficult experience for your cousin. She's dying. Why don't we take a moment and think about what she's going through and what help she may need from you." Sarah paused a moment and then, voice quivering, said, "I feel so helpless. I know she's going to die, Megory, and I don't want to lose her. This really hurts." Tears began falling down her cheeks. I held her hand and let her cry it out. "You're right, though," she said finally, taking a deep breath. "She's the one who's dying, not me I should be there for her. Tell me what I can do." So I gave her some simple suggestions, and she became quiet for a moment, struggling with herse …

Megory Anderson is the author of Sacred Dying: Creating Rituals for Embracing the End of Life, ©2001 from Prima Publishing. A former Anglican nun, she has been on staff in numerous churches and teaches religion at the University of California, Berkeley.


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