Rossweisse
RIP Rossweisse, HellHost and long-time Shipmate.
Please see the thread in All Saints remembering her.

"A holy death"

RossweisseRossweisse Hell Host, 8th Day Host
I had a pastoral call from a priest at my parish last night (he also brought a bottle of a pretty good Sicilian red wine - Episcopal priests know how to be good guests) who, once we settled down to serious discussion, probed me considering my thoughts on what would qualify as a "holy death." I hadn't really considered that particular question (lots of other related things, yes), but we talked about it; I came up with some ideas on the fly.

My future trustee came by this morning to help with some things, and I put it to him. He thinks it means "being at peace with yourself and at peace with God." I think that's very close. What do you make of it?
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  • Pangolin GuerrePangolin Guerre Shipmate
    edited October 15
    My initial reaction was, Hunh, what an odd question. My second reaction was that it put me in mind of the story of Thoreau on his deathbed, asked whether he had made his peace with God; he replied that he was unaware that he and God had ever quarrelled.

    But it's a very good question. I think that your future trustee has pretty much captured the answer. You could do much worse than to savour his response, as there is a lot in it to unpack. It's such a weighty matter that it would be best not to complicate it. The greatest verities are simple.

    Nice touch on the part of the priest.
  • I visited a friend in a palliative care ward a day or so before her death. She had lived a difficult life, emotionally. But she had turned her experiences to the good, turning outward to help people just by offering companionship. Her son, her only surviving son I think, had committed suicide at about the time of her final illness. I expected to meet someone downcast, maybe destroyed. But she was bright and happy, very keen to be welcomed into heaven. She was not herself, because she was so wrapped up in her vision of the Kingdom. I am sure the painkilling medication was assisting this process, but it allowed her to be so expressive, so full of life. Her visions might have been enhanced by the medication, but they came from her.

    If not a holy death, hers was certainly a death with her eyes fixed on God.
  • Beautiful answers, all three of you.
  • Schroedingers CatSchroedingers Cat Shipmate, Waving not Drowning Host
    I have vivid memories of my Dad, shortly before he died, saying "I know where I am going". It may be a simple understanding, but he was OK to die. I think that is a holy death.
  • Perhaps St John Henry Newman's famous prayer is worth quoting - and praying, of course:

    O Lord, support us all the day long of this troublous life, until the shades lengthen and the evening comes, the busy world is hushed, the fever of life is over and our work is done; then Lord, in thy mercy, grant us safe lodging, a holy rest, and peace at the last, through Jesus Christ our Lord.
  • RossweisseRossweisse Hell Host, 8th Day Host
    Thank you all. There's already some good stuff here.
    ...Nice touch on the part of the priest.
    He had wanted to know if he could come an hour early and enjoy the wine while we talked of other things (parish gossip, likely). I explained that Best Friend and her husband, Future Trustee, were coming for dinner.

    He started to back off, but (since I didn't have enough for four for dinner), I invited him to come at 5:30, for dessert - someone from church brought me an entire apple cobbler. (It was good, too.) So the four of us had wine and cobbler, and had an uproarious good time.

    They left, we went into the living room, and got serious. And while I was at first nonplussed by the question, I'm coming to see the value of it.


  • tclunetclune Shipmate
    I have a lot of problems with the question. ISTM that there is a strand of Christianity that places more emphasis on death than on life. To my mind, the real question is what counts as a Godly life. Focusing on death strikes me as an attempt to coerce a response that springs from ignorance and fear. Christ seems to me to have focused on what you know -- when asked what is necessary for eternal life, He talked about being a good neighbor, not about the hereafter at all.
  • tclune wrote: »
    I have a lot of problems with the question. ISTM that there is a strand of Christianity that places more emphasis on death than on life. To my mind, the real question is what counts as a Godly life. Focusing on death strikes me as an attempt to coerce a response that springs from ignorance and fear. Christ seems to me to have focused on what you know -- when asked what is necessary for eternal life, He talked about being a good neighbor, not about the hereafter at all.

    But death is part of life, and when we (or our loved ones) know we are approaching it, it may be sensible to prepare ourselves.
  • I think that it is also entirely possible to have a "holy death" even when by normal comprehension people are incapable of understanding that the end is imminent.

    My godmother died a few years ago having had dementia for a while. But I am quite sure that even though she had lost her faculties, she died in "sure and certain hope of the Resurrection to eternal life."
  • What a fab priest
  • If someone talks 99% of the time about life and 1% of the time about death, somebody else will always pop up and say "Why are you focusing so much on death?"
  • Well said, Mousethief.
  • Black CatBlack Cat Shipmate Posts: 20
    A thought: having too fixed an idea of a holy death, a bit like expectant mothers' hopes for their baby's birth, can be a source of distress when reality doesn't match up... I know a nun who came back home for her father's final illness and was in fact quite upset that when the time came he slipped away almost without anyone noticing. Certainly there were no Important Last Words, and she didn't get a chance to pray with him at the last moments, which we suspect she thought would happen.
    I'm willing to accept that a nun coming home in those circumstances, for the first time since she entered the convent, is probably an extreme case, but I'm sure other people must have had similar "disappointments" that might well have made bereavement harder.
  • TelfordTelford Shipmate
    My father litterally dropped down dead. Not much chance of a holy death.

    My grandfather died in agony in a terminal cancer ward and was virtually unrecognisable. Not much chance of a holy death.

  • Don't see why not. My Savior died in agony on a cross and was virtually unrecognizable. Can't think of a much more holy death than that one.
  • RossweisseRossweisse Hell Host, 8th Day Host
    Ahh-men, @Lamb Chopped.

    I've put a lot of thought into both the before-death and past-death parts. To the extent that I've given much thought to the moment-of-death part, it's been mostly about avoiding some of the pain that a death from cancer usually brings with it. For me, it's a highly relevant question.
  • Very much so. I hope the doctors are able to do some reassuring on that one.
  • GalilitGalilit Shipmate
    I think it'd be a feeling of having been and done (almost) all I could, being forgiven for the "almost", and looking forward to a new (and free of current bodily limitations) existence.

    I do love Milton in Paradise Lost, Book I, lines 423-430:
    For Spirits when they please
    Can either Sex assume, or both; so soft
    And uncompounded is thir Essence pure,
    Not ti'd or manacl'd with joynt or limb,
    Nor founded on the brittle strength of bones,
    Like cumbrous flesh; but in what shape they choose
    Dilated or condens't, bright or obscure,
    Can execute thir aerie purposes,
    And works of love or enmity fulfill.

    There are people I want to see (and 3 cats and 2 dogs). A close close friend ended our Last Meeting with "I'll be waiting for you" and I my reply (unrehearsed, which bubbled up from some unknown depths and took me by surprise) was "We will look different but we will know each other"
  • Many (many) years ago, a close friend of mine and I were having a pint, and talking about our lives. I said that I wanted to do one great thing. He asked me what that might be, and I said that I didn't know, and for all I knew I might have already done it without realising it. I think that it's the same with a holy death. We can't really know until we've gone through it. Until that point, all we can do is prepare for it as best we can. I think that Future Trustee's words are as good as the preparation gets.

    A different friend had been quite ill for a few years but death was then at last present. He had been quite aware until his last two days. He died surrounded by twelve of us. No final words, no gesture. I was and am in no doubt that he was well prepared, and that it was a holy death.

    Rossweisse, your priest's question was, I think, in no way coercive. (I rather suspect that you're not easily turned!) It was, rather, an invitation to an intelligent believer. I'd like to have a drink with that man.
  • There is a poem by Donne that is much on my mind. You may find it helpful: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/44114/hymn-to-god-my-god-in-my-sickness
  • Gee DGee D Shipmate
    Indeed, a glorious poem, one full of faith.
  • Amen.
    Telford wrote: »
    My father literally dropped down dead. Not much chance of a holy death.

    My grandfather died in agony in a terminal cancer ward and was virtually unrecognisable. Not much chance of a holy death.

    Sad cases, both (my father also died painfully, from cancer), and I sympathise.

    However, since the only death we can really experience is our own, I think we can only comment on how that of others appears to us...
  • RossweisseRossweisse Hell Host, 8th Day Host
    ...Rossweisse, your priest's question was, I think, in no way coercive. (I rather suspect that you're not easily turned!) It was, rather, an invitation to an intelligent believer. I'd like to have a drink with that man.
    Oh, he's great company!

    It's more relevant than I thought it might me. See the "Cancer SUCKS" thread for full details.

    Ross


  • cgichardcgichard Shipmate
    Let us ask for a Christian end to our life, painless, peaceful and without shame, and for a good defence before the terrifying judgement of Christ.
  • AmosAmos Shipmate
    John Bunyan is very good on the belief (prevalent in his time and resurfacing since) that you can tell by the way someone dies whether or not they are in a state of grace. Mr Badman in The Life and Death of Mr Badman, dies 'as peacefully as any chrisom child' (I quote from memory), and the various pilgrims in the second part of Pilgrim's Progress cross the river to the Celestial City with their own particular mixtures of fear, hope, and resolution.
  • KarlLBKarlLB Shipmate
    edited October 21
    .
  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    edited October 21
    It's a Gaussian distribution isn't it? Some have three standard deviation epic, poignant, powerful, feel-good, happy deaths. Some have utterly foul, irredeemable, pointless deaths. Most shuffle off.
  • Amos wrote: »
    John Bunyan is very good on the belief (prevalent in his time and resurfacing since) that you can tell by the way someone dies whether or not they are in a state of grace. Mr Badman in The Life and Death of Mr Badman, dies 'as peacefully as any chrisom child' (I quote from memory), and the various pilgrims in the second part of Pilgrim's Progress cross the river to the Celestial City with their own particular mixtures of fear, hope, and resolution.

    This is complete BS, particularly in a day when people usually die under the influence of drugs. My sister had a bad reaction to drugs that prevented this picture-postcard scene, and that says absolutely nothing about her state of grace.

    Any Christian death is a holy death.
  • DafydDafyd Shipmate
    I think that's the point Amos is making.
  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    Amos wrote: »
    John Bunyan is very good on the belief (prevalent in his time and resurfacing since) that you can tell by the way someone dies whether or not they are in a state of grace. Mr Badman in The Life and Death of Mr Badman, dies 'as peacefully as any chrisom child' (I quote from memory), and the various pilgrims in the second part of Pilgrim's Progress cross the river to the Celestial City with their own particular mixtures of fear, hope, and resolution.

    This is complete BS, particularly in a day when people usually die under the influence of drugs. My sister had a bad reaction to drugs that prevented this picture-postcard scene, and that says absolutely nothing about her state of grace.

    Any Christian death is a holy death.

    But not any Muslim or Hindu one?
  • Well, the OP is by a committed Christian, this is a Christian website, and it hasn't been suggested AFAICS that only Christians can have a *holy death*, whatever one may understand by that phrase.
  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    Well, the OP is by a committed Christian, this is a Christian website, and it hasn't been suggested AFAICS that only Christians can have a *holy death*, whatever one may understand by that phrase.

    It could be inferred from @Lamb Chopped. It's all about what we're able to bring to the party when we're dying, what our internal, expressed dying story is.
  • Schroedingers CatSchroedingers Cat Shipmate, Waving not Drowning Host
    I would probably refer to John Donne instead - "Any mans [or womans] death diminishes me". No death is "holy" because all death is loss, is a tearing away from this world.

    And there is a sense of judgement that Xs death is holy but Ys isn't.
  • Martin54 wrote: »
    Amos wrote: »
    John Bunyan is very good on the belief (prevalent in his time and resurfacing since) that you can tell by the way someone dies whether or not they are in a state of grace. Mr Badman in The Life and Death of Mr Badman, dies 'as peacefully as any chrisom child' (I quote from memory), and the various pilgrims in the second part of Pilgrim's Progress cross the river to the Celestial City with their own particular mixtures of fear, hope, and resolution.

    This is complete BS, particularly in a day when people usually die under the influence of drugs. My sister had a bad reaction to drugs that prevented this picture-postcard scene, and that says absolutely nothing about her state of grace.

    Any Christian death is a holy death.

    But not any Muslim or Hindu one?

    I think you better find a Muslim or a Hindu to ask about that, if you really want to know.
  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    edited October 22
    Martin54 wrote: »
    Amos wrote: »
    John Bunyan is very good on the belief (prevalent in his time and resurfacing since) that you can tell by the way someone dies whether or not they are in a state of grace. Mr Badman in The Life and Death of Mr Badman, dies 'as peacefully as any chrisom child' (I quote from memory), and the various pilgrims in the second part of Pilgrim's Progress cross the river to the Celestial City with their own particular mixtures of fear, hope, and resolution.

    This is complete BS, particularly in a day when people usually die under the influence of drugs. My sister had a bad reaction to drugs that prevented this picture-postcard scene, and that says absolutely nothing about her state of grace.

    Any Christian death is a holy death.

    But not any Muslim or Hindu one?

    I think you better find a Muslim or a Hindu to ask about that, if you really want to know.

    Of the many of both I have known well, we've never discussed it. But it is obvious that Christians are exceptional in any way. As King David knew, the evil, including witless Christians, die in bliss, fat and surrounded by their grieving grandchildren.
  • finelinefineline Kerygmania Host, 8th Day Host
    It is an interesting question, and if it were me, I'd probably want to word it differently - not that it needs rewording in general, but I mean just for myself, as I think I would need something more tangible to understand it. I am never sure what is meant by living a holy life, and I think I'd need to understand that in order to envision a holy death. My understanding of the Bible is that God is holy, so I see holy as a word for God. Not a synonym, but a descriptive word, unique to God. And I tend to think that when we look to God, rather than looking to ourselves, that God's holiness might reflect on us. But I also don't think it is dependent on our looking to God, but rather something that comes from God regardless. We can't always focus our minds on God, but God is always there. And perhaps especially at our births and deaths, because then we are most dependent on God.

    If I were thinking about the way I would like to die, I might think in terms of peace and choice and dignity, but I guess I see holiness as more about God being there, God being holy and God loving me, regardless of whether I experience peace, choice and dignity. I don't know if that makes any sense, and it may be very different from how others see it, which may be from different understandings of the word 'holy.'
  • I was at a Requiem Mass yesterday. The priest welcomed the remains of the deceased into the church. He welcomed and listed all the members of the immediate family of the deceased and had a special welcome for those who did not share the faith of the deceased. He told the assembled mourners how he had visited the now deceased shortly before her death and could see that she was at peace with those around her and that when she closed her eyes to this world she knew that she was greatly loved by her family. That was a 'holy death'.
  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    not...
  • finelinefineline Kerygmania Host, 8th Day Host
    I don't see it as any less of a holy death if you are not loved by your family. I tend to think God is especially present for the unloved.
  • I am happy to agree with you, fineline. I omitted to say that the deceased knew that she was loved by God. Knowing you are loved by your family is a bonus.
  • Bishops FingerBishops Finger Shipmate
    edited October 22
    Martin54 wrote: »
    not...

    Sorry to be picky, but whatever do you mean by this? Are you saying that @Forthview's priest was telling a Hideous Fib? How do you know...one way or the other????

  • Martin54 wrote: »
    Martin54 wrote: »
    Amos wrote: »
    John Bunyan is very good on the belief (prevalent in his time and resurfacing since) that you can tell by the way someone dies whether or not they are in a state of grace. Mr Badman in The Life and Death of Mr Badman, dies 'as peacefully as any chrisom child' (I quote from memory), and the various pilgrims in the second part of Pilgrim's Progress cross the river to the Celestial City with their own particular mixtures of fear, hope, and resolution.

    This is complete BS, particularly in a day when people usually die under the influence of drugs. My sister had a bad reaction to drugs that prevented this picture-postcard scene, and that says absolutely nothing about her state of grace.

    Any Christian death is a holy death.

    But not any Muslim or Hindu one?

    I think you better find a Muslim or a Hindu to ask about that, if you really want to know.

    Of the many of both I have known well, we've never discussed it. But it is obvious that Christians are exceptional in any way. As King David knew, the evil, including witless Christians, die in bliss, fat and surrounded by their grieving grandchildren.

    I'm sorry, I don't follow you, but it doesn't matter.
  • Bishops FingerBishops Finger Shipmate
    edited October 22
    Ah-HA! @Martin54's peculiar and isolated *not* is explained! It should go between Christians are and exceptional in the post @mark_in_manchester is quoting!

    O the evils of cross-posting...
    :disappointed:

    And apologies to Martin for having thought you capable of such Calumny.
    :wink:
  • So..."it is obvious that Christians are not exceptional in any way"?

    That's not true, really, is it. I can think of all sorts of ways in which my faith makes me much wierder than most atheists I know.
  • I hasten to add that I am NOT claiming to translate Martin's post accurately. I'll let him do that for himself...
    :mrgreen:
  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    Ah-HA! @Martin54's peculiar and isolated *not* is explained! It should go between Christians are and exceptional in the post @mark_in_manchester is quoting!

    O the evils of cross-posting...
    :disappointed:

    And apologies to Martin for having thought you capable of such Calumny.
    :wink:

    No, no, no, no. The apology is mine for being a fecking ij and not correcting with context: I assumed my 'Not' followed on from my erroneous post.

    And nice one m_i_m.
  • To me, to die knowing that one is at peace with God and with those whom one loves and knowing that that love is returned is indeed a 'holy death' irrespective of which religion one tries to follow.
  • This.
  • "Jesus loves me, this I know"

    It's sort of like a contract, is it?
  • finelinefineline Kerygmania Host, 8th Day Host
    Forthview wrote: »
    To me, to die knowing that one is at peace with God and with those whom one loves and knowing that that love is returned is indeed a 'holy death' irrespective of which religion one tries to follow.

    I guess my initial point was that the knowing one is loved by God is not what makes the death holy, but the being loved regardless. Many die without consciousness, or with altered perception and breakdown of cognition, and may have no awareness of self or God. It is God who is the constant, not us. And God who is the holy one.
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