Our elderly die today in radically different ways than did their predecessors. Medicalization, hospitalization, and cultural aversionhorror reallytoward sickness and death have left us bereft of examples of how to approach death.
In response, John Fanestil offers the 18th-century Methodist tradition of the happy death. A Methodist pastor in Southern California, Fanestil weaves his own experiences caring for dying parishioners with the tradition of his spiritual ancestors. "Proponents of happy dying filled periodicals of every imaginable kind with glowing obituaries and uplifting accounts from the deathbed," he writes. He focuses on one outstanding example, that of Mrs. Hunter, an early Methodist.
These accounts "did not deny that death brought pain and suffering. Still, [Christians] expected that this pain and suffering would be accompanied in equal measure by happiness and blessing." Fanestil writes of his current elderly parishioners, who watched their own parents' and grandparents' happy deaths. His accounts convince readers to expect God's happiness and blessing in the months and minutes before death.
Fanestil offers 10 life lessons, gleaned from the account of Mrs. Hunter, including applications on prayer and reflecting on the presence of God. Such preparation is not just for death but for lifeboth now and in eternity.
Mrs. Hunter's Happy Death can be purchased at Christianbook.com and other retailers.1
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