Faith and Life

The Power Of Dying Well

I have two friends – Stuart, who lives fairly close by, here in Scotland; and Marian, who lives in England – and both are rapidly approaching death. Both of them have a very special place in my heart.

Each one, in their own way, is teaching me something about life – and about death. And their powerful lessons go beyond just me.

Stuart, diagnosed on Ash Wednesday this year as having a terminal illness, made the decision to use his experience to help others. He shares frequent posts on social media which detail how he is and what he is experiencing. Over the last month or so – particularly since his story was featured in a Catholic magazine – Stuart’s story has gathered in many more followers who keep in touch with him online. And so he has a broad reach.

Marian, on the other hand, is dying very quietly at home with her husband, John, doing all he can to support her. On the phone, Marian is a joy – full of life and real vivacity, she has a very endearing character and I see what John saw in her. Not surprisingly, John is a quite exceptional person also, and I consider him a very dear friend.

“Teach, o teach, us how to die”

Catholic hymn to Saint Joseph

Both Stuart and Marian are sharing their lessons with others, whether within their immediate circle, more broadly, or both – and when the subject at hand is death and mortality, that is rarely easy to achieve. Marian is like a light within her family, her gentle glow permeating and caressing everything – and everyone – around her. I very much suspect Stuart is precisely the same within his family and beyond.

It seems to me that both of these souls exude an authentic sanctity in these days – the grace of God is at work both within and around them.

It has been said that real sanctity is the most attractive face of the Church and I believe that – and I see that attraction happening.

Sanctity is also contagious, if we will allow it to be; if we are attracted by it in another, we find ourselves responding to it – often in small and seemingly insignificant ways, but sometimes in greater ways, also.

Today is a very difficult day for Marian and for John, as her health is deteriorating rapidly. There is little I am able to do other than stay in touch by phone, while balancing that against not wanting to get in the way nor to intrude.

But there is one other thing I can do – and that is to pray. And I am certain that prayer can achieve all things, because it does not rely on us with all our limitations.

And so that is precisely what I will do. I will keep praying for both Marian, particularly so today, and for Stuart.

Catholic | Retired Nurse | UK

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