Dying Well

Kathie, a dear friend of mine, passed away this week after a prolonged journey with Parkinson's disease. I intentionally use the word "journey" as opposed to "battle" because from the very beginning my friend demonstrated amazing grace and courage in her acceptance of the diagnosis and her ability to continue to live out a fullness of life in the midst of the disease. She regularly described it as a journey and in fact talked openly the last few weeks about her dying as simply another stage of the journey. And as a person of deep faith, she also talked of looking forward to her journey beyond this earthly life.
      Our work at Living Compass focuses on helping people to live well. We regularly offer retreats entitled, "Living Well with All Your Heart, Soul, Strength, and Mind," and over time we, along with those who are a part of these retreats, have discerned several principles that we think are foundational for living well.
     This past month, as I spent time with Kathie, and her amazing, loving family and friends, I realized what a powerful connection there is between living well and dying well. It became clear to me that the foundational principles for living well apply equally to dying well. My friend taught me so many valuable lessons over the forty years I knew her, including, now, teaching me what a strong connection there is between how we live and how we die.
     I offer here, in honor of my dear friend, a few core principles for both living well and dying well.
  • Make peace today with anyone whom you have hurt or has hurt you.   Life is too short to hold grudges. Forgive freely.
  • Forgive yourself. Let go of mistakes and regrets. Be at peace with yourself.
  • Never try to do the journey of living or dying alone. Surround yourself with the love of friends and family, and be sure to be a friend to others on their journeys through life, and death.
  • Keep your sense of humor and resist the urge to ever take yourself too seriously.
  • In the words of Psalm 46, "Be still and know that I am God." Tend your spiritual life so that it is there as a foundation for peace and strength for you when you need it most.
  • From the Prayer of St. Francis, "It is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is dying that we are born to eternal life."
     We are both students and teachers in this journey we call life. Today, I am especially grateful for all that I was taught by my dear friend Kathie.