A gowned, draped figure lay on an anesthetic cart awaiting transportation to the operating room. Some gauche zealot had placed on his chest a tract: “Are You Prepared to Die?” The minister who goes to a home or a hospital to see a dying person must be far wiser and more sensitive than that. He goes as an ambassador of the Risen Christ to give comfort, to pray, to empathize, to make known the promises of God.
Conduct. This is no time for the ecclesiastical smile, for Dale Carnegie ebullience or Charles Atlas salubriousness; nor is it the time for a countenance of gloom or for the insincere playing of games. Between the minister and the dying patient there must be authenticity. Masks and roles must be swept away.
A dying person is enervated, fatigued, often in pain and nauseated, without appetite for food or entertainment. He is psychologically and physically incapable of listening to talk about the case histories of others, the pastor’s latest golf score, community tragedies, or the world situation. This is the time to make every moment count, for drugs, disease, and impending death reduce the patient’s span and energy supply.
Communication. The minister should sit or stand near the bed in the place where the patient can most easily see and hear him. Although the patient’s vision may be blurred, the reassurance of seeing the emissary of God, even fuzzily, is very valuable in these last hours of his life.
The senses of touch and sound are important also. In recent years medical publications have stressed to physicians the value of touching the geriatric patient. From the pastor, too, the patient may appreciate the tactile expression of concern, particularly during prayer. This may well prove a means of spiritual communication. ...1
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