Big World Small Boat

Private Diary of A Priest. OK, so we're not all angels...Everyone needs a place to get things off their chest! And yes, I do talk to God about it all! Even He has a sense of humour! Want proof? Well, he made me, didn't He? Oh, one last thought-If you don't like what I've written, please keep in mind - it's MY diary. Go write your own!

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Location: England, United Kingdom

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Words of Comfort For the Dying

What do you say to someone who is dying? What words of comfort for the dying can you offer? And especially, how do we offer prayers for the dying?

A parent of friends of mine is currently in our local hospice. It’s sad to see that his deterioration has come so rapidly and particularly in that he has so clearly been fighting for survival. On Saturday, he was unconscious and it was thought that he would soon pass. But on Sunday morning, he was chatting with his wife and hospice staff. This is not unusual.

It’s a common occurrence to see people in the final hours of their lives, moving between a peaceful calm and an anxious state. There is clearly a struggle in their spirit to live. And it’s a fact that the strength of that spirit is undeniably tied to their struggle to remain on this earthly plain. Even though their physical bodies are failing and damaged beyond our ability to repair, the powerful spirit within that individual – that deep instinct to protect our human shell, fights to accept any kind of quality of life that is offered them.

Death is that moment of passing that comes as the spirit acknowledges that these mortal remains are no longer able to sustain its presence. And it is okay to acknowledge this, to accept it as yet another part of our journey. In fact, this is where the presence of family, friends and carers can often help most, with their words of comfort and prayers. The dying will come to accept the new journey that their spirit needs to take.

If you’re a family member, speak of the happy times you’ve shared together, the celebrations you’ve had, the joys you’ve experienced together and never forget to share how much you love them. Acknowledge that this is just an interval in time and that you will all be together again soon.

If you’ve had a spirited relationship with the person who’s dying, acknowledge that you’ve had your ‘ups and downs,’ but reaffirm the power of that love and ask them to forgive any transgression there may have been. Please, do not use this time to be accusatory or stating what your wishes may have been. This time is long past and by your presence and giving of yourself; you are providing the greatest blessing you could ever imagine – for both of you.

One of the greatest gifts you can provide, whether you’re a family member, friend, or professional carer is the gift of touch. Even when words can no longer be spoken, the gift of touch is a potent form of spiritual communication. I often rub the hands or feet of someone who is in transition. There are times when I stroke their hair. These gentle acts are no different than the loving embrace we receive as we come into this world.

And of course, there’s the power of prayer. Never underestimate the strength of that communication. As you offer your supplications, not only does God hear, but the living spiritual being you’re praying for hears as well. Acknowledging that it’s okay to let go, that there is life beyond is a form of blessing. And indeed, you too will be blessed.
Heavenly Father
You have given us so much. Thank You for the gift of life, for all the treasures we received, through the wealth of those who’ve loved us and those whom we’ve loved.
This body You have given is frail and damaged. And now we ask You to grant us peace, as we begin our next journey, to a new life, free of pain and suffering. Ease the sorrow of those we leave behind, knowing that we will always live on in their heart.
Take my hand and lead me now, until that time when we shall meet again, on that day where there is no sunset and no dawn. Amen


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Anonymous Sprucehill_7 said...

My father is dying and I had no idea what to say. I found this site in Yahoo and I think its the most valuable thing Ive ever seen on the internet! I love your simple words of love and comfort. Ive been afraid to touch my father and now I feel guilty. Today when my sister and I visit dad Im going to rub his feet. He always loved that. Thank you for putting this on the internet! It was meant to be that I found you. This was the greatest Christmas gift I could have ever received. We were praying for him to get better but I now realize I was being selfish. He is 88 and he should be able to let go. He has been a wonderful dad. Thank you!xx

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Speaking of death...I heard from Marisha that you had been hospitalised too, and I was worried about you, especially since you never wrote to me. But now I see that your wonderful blog has been updated, fortunately, so I guess you´re fine after all. I'll spend my x-mas at home here in Sweden, but go back to Ukraine in January.
Well, Merry x-mas and a Happy New Year to you, Father!


Anonymous Mrs Fiona Lawrence said...

I didnt know what to say to my sister today. She has lung cancer and not expected to live much longer. She is in hospital now. This has helped me. Thank you for taking the time to give your advice.

Blogger Klick said...

Thank you for these words. I have a friend who is 19, and has about a month yet to live. He was transferred to his own home for hospice care, and I did not know what to say to him. Thank you once again for your words. :)

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your words of advice have been so helpful. I am struggling with belief in that there is a heaven now that I am going thru the possibility of my husband not surviving much longer. Your site gives me hope somewhat but mostly it helps me with knowing what to do when death knocks.

Blogger Father Bill Haymaker said...

Dear Friend

I’m saddened to hear of your husband’s illness. Now is the time to be with him, to speak with him, sharing fond memories you had together and most importantly, letting him know that you are there with him.

Please accept this in the spirit in which it is offered. If you are suffering with doubt, as so many of us do, please give thought to this: First, you do not need to be religious in order to be spiritual. We find our spirituality in many different ways. It does not have to be within four walls of a building. Secondly, if you’ve asked for a ‘sign’ that there is new life after death, please consider this. Turn off your computer and go outside. Look around you. Look in your gardens: for everywhere you go, whatever you do, the message is loud and clear, that in death, there IS new life. God bombards us with this message constantly. It’s our own fears that dismiss it. Dying is as natural as living and should be celebrated with the same sense of adventure and welcome as birth. Sadly, many of us have created an unnatural fear of death. And it’s only when we accept that dying is part of our cycle, that we will begin to find peace.

Go be with your husband now. Embrace him if you can. Rub his feet, massage his hands, and speak with him. If he has been suffering, tell him it’s okay for him to go now. The spirit is more powerful than we can imagine and it is conditioned to fight for the shell in which it lives. Set it free with love.

And know that there are others with you today who will share in your sorrow and rejoice in your happiness. I wish you and your husband peace. +

Blogger Father Bill Haymaker said...

Dear Anonymous: I forgot to add - you might also wish to visit my dog's blog. (He's a far better writer than I am!). Somewhere near the bottom of it is an elegy which I encourage you to read, entitled: Death is Nothing at All.

Dog Dogma

I wish you Peace in all your journeys. Fr B+

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Father Haymaker

I stumbled onto your site when looking for what to say to a mentor who has only a few days left.

I just wanted to say thank you for sharing your thoughts and to let you know how much I appreciate your kind and thoughful words. You have given me the basis and confidence to speak with this kind soul one last time.

Kent in Canada

Blogger Father Bill Haymaker said...

Thank you for your kind words Kent. Each and every life is a gift and should be recognised as such. But also remember that life is a mystery as well. I believe that when God places His gentle breath upon us as we embark upon that journey home, it is then when we begin to gain a greater vision to see what lies ahead. I'm reminded of this often. One of the greatest moments was when an elderly friend who was dying, caught me watching her while I was reading to her. You can read about the experience by clicking on: What’s wrong? I’m only Dying!

I wish you peace in all your journeys! Fr. B+

Blogger Gloria said...

I am at a loss as to how to deal with my husband's illness. I am watching him die in front of my eyes. It is a horrible and painful disease that is wearing his poor body down. He does not want to die and is fighting it. I came across your website when I did a search on what to say to him. I want to somehow give him peace. I want to let him know it is okay, but he will NOT accept the inevitable. I was in denial myself, but now I have to accept it. Or maybe I should just let him hold on to his hope, maybe that is the answer for him?? I do not know what to do. What is the right answer for him?

Blogger Father Bill Haymaker said...

Gloria, I’m saddened to learn of the suffering both you and your husband are experiencing. Hope is the most powerful elixir we possess. Many people often experience a loss of faith in times such as these, but it’s the power of Hope that lifts us.

You’ve shared that your husband refuses to accept the inevitable. Clearly, he’s a strong and good man. Don’t deny him that right to cling to Hope. Allow him to fight. But if I may be frank, there may come a time when in his body’s process, he may become no longer able to speak. I believe this is when that powerful spark within him, his soul, continues to fight on his behalf. This is the time when it will require your greatest of contributions – knowing that he still hears you:

Let him know how much he is loved, that there’s a greater world beyond and that it’s okay to move on, still all the while, providing him with the nurturing love you’ve given all along.

I have no right to give you instruction as to what is right or wrong in your care for your husband. I can only share my own experiences. But what I can affirm is that I have no doubt, whatsoever, that when your husband does move to acceptance, he will, at last find peace, as will you.

You may wish to read a note I wrote regarding a friend of mine named Sarah at:

When it’s okay to let go

and my later note:

Thank You Sarah

I’ve also modified this reply since first posting it, as I wanted to share a thought about you as well. Gloria, during this challenging time, please, please ensure that you take time for yourself. As difficult as it will be for you, seek camaraderie among close friends. Go out for lunch or dinner. Go to theatre, if you’re in Britain, visit one of our magnificent national gardens. You must ensure that the love you have for your husband is extended to yourself as well.

Gloria, I wish you and your husband comfort and peace.

Fr B+

Anonymous Anne Templeton said...

Father Bill - Thank you for being there for us this past week. You made my fathers funeral a true celebration filled with both laughter and tears. When you pulled out the milk bottles from under your pulpit and carried them to Dads coffin we all heard the familiar tinkling sound I had heard all my life when he returned home from his rounds. It made us feel Dad was right there with us. It was such a wonderful surprise and the most wonderful part of the service. Thank you for being so caring and sensitive to my Mums needs. She said other than us she couldn't remember the last time anyone had hugged her! Thank you for everything. Anne Templeton

Blogger Chazah [South Africa] said...

Thank u so much for sharing such a loving insight into those who are dying or have passed on into the arms of the Lord. My Mum, who lives in the UK, is dying right now of lung cancer and my Dad has to go for kidney dialysis abt 3x's a wk. My young sister, who lives nr them, is carrying all the trauma and care of it on her young shoulders. She has barely any support frm anyone and feels very alone in all this. I live in South Africa and unable to visit to help her as I am not able to travel due to being mostly housebound myself thru illnesses, it makes me feel so helplss and frustrated with worry bcuz I cannot give them/her the comfort and support she and my parents nd right nw. But I found your wndrful blog on google search and it has given me some much nd'd advice thru your care and love and compassion. Evn tho I have lost many dear loved ones and friends over many yrs, this time its hitting me hard and I kp having flash backs of me and my Mum when I was a child, a teenager, etc while living undr her care. Nw that she nds mine I cannot giv it and it is breaking my heart. I knw the Lord and love God with all my heart, but for some reason no words will come and I don't knw what to say to Mum when I phone her.... but nw your words and advice has inspired me to bring some cmfrt to her. Thk u! Thk U! I am very grateful to God for u 2dy! :o) I have also jst texted my sister to read your blog and told her it will help her right nw.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for this. I am visiting my dying mother and we've had a broken relationship for 30 years. I am so grateful for the sharing and prayers so that I could comfort her and make peace.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Father I copied your prayer last year and lost your blog address. But I kept the prayer on a piece of paper and was able to type it in the internet and find you again. It seems many people have copied it since you wrote this. I believe it touches so many in such powerful ways. I need it again and more. My husband passed away 5 years ago and now my mother is coming to the end of her life. Thank you for these gentle comforting words.

Anonymous kat said...

Thank you,Im going to give my aunt a break on saturday,shes been caring for my uncle with end stage cancer(that robber of our loved ones)hes now under hospice,hes always been the one who does for everyone,the nicest man,I just dont know what to say,Im afraid I will walk thru the door and start crying and not stop...

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was looking for some words to say to someone who has cancer. These are the best. I was trying to think if I had to mention the cancer but this helped me understand. Now if my mothers pain goes away Ill even thank God!

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am in route from MI. to FL. to hopefully hold my fathers hand one more time and tell him I love him. I can't type this without crying, I would love to comfort my father in prayer but I'm afraid I won't be able to say 10 words without breaking! I do not want to upset him, I want him to look forward to standing in the presence of our maker. He has fought cancerS for more than 10 years now and it is now won the war. Do you have a comforting one line prayer for me to share, my mind is a blank!

Blogger Father Bill Haymaker said...

Dear MI. to FL.

So many of us have developed a fear of death and dying. I think we do this because we've created such an unnatural fear of death. Why can't we approach it with the same sense of adventure as we would a new birth?

Our Lord gives us powerful messages of our new life to come, if we would only open our eyes to recognise. Just go outside and look around you. You will see that we've just left that swirling, dark, cauldron of winter - that blinking of an eye called winter. And we've moved to that new birth called spring. How more powerful a message can that be?

Tonight through my Compline prayers, I shall hold you and your father in my prayers. And with my morning prayer as well. Please know that you're both embraced with His love.

And as for words to offer for your father? I'm not really sure they're necessary. The very fact you've come all that way to be with him could not be more powerful a message to him as to how much you need him. Embrace him into your arms. That will say far more than words could ever convey.

But if you feel you really need them, perhaps something such as these?:

Gracious and life-giving Lord, I thank you for all that is precious in my father's and my life together. Embrace my father with Your love. Place Your gentle breath upon him, as he begins his journey, towards that moment when he will come to stand before Jesus, on that glorious day in which there is no sunset and no dawn.



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