Fall 2012

The Gift of the Dying Person

Ruth Ashfield

It is this experience of the dying person and of those caring for him which will remain at the heart of this article. This approach is undertaken following in the footsteps of Blessed Pope John Paul II and others who see that man’s experience of life and love draws him to wonder, to search, and points him towards a fullness of meaning that only comes to light in an encounter with Love in the person of Christ. Both Saunders and John Paul II, enlightened by Christian faith, discovered in the experience of the suffering and dying person a privileged manifestation of the continuity between human experience and Christian revelation. It is beyond the scope of this article to address the theological underpinning and consequences of all that will be discussed; rather, the focus will be on how these experiences can open man to such a revelation of love and so be transformed from within when lived in expectation of it.

In Part 1, man's quest for meaning and its relation to the body will be explored in order to propose a language of the suffering and dying body which points us towards meaning. Part 2 will examine the specific needs of the dying person and show how the only adequate response to the mystery of death lies in compassionate presence. The consequence of such a response will be explored from the perspective of the dying person in Part 3 and from the perspective of the community surrounding him in Part 4.

. . . . . . . . . .

To read this article in its entirety, please download the free PDF, buy this issue, or become a Communio subscriber!