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DEATHBED QUESTIONS: DISCERNING THE UNSPOKEN

Nursing the soul of a dying person demands a heart sensitive to the tide of needs.

A woman I'll call Marylynn, the fifty-nine-year-old mother of one of my parishioners, was dying of cancer. When I first entered her living room, now converted into a "dying room" complete with hospital bed and institutional sheets, death haunted the house.

Her husband had silently pointed my way into the room, whispering at the door, "I won't disturb the two of you." He then beat a hasty retreat to his garage. The shades were pulled tightly across the window, permitting only a few streams of dust-flecked light to trickle to the bed. The stale smell of stagnant air and unwatered flowers hung over the room like mist over a pond.

Marylynn, thin and pale, was lying limp in her bed. Her breathing was shallow. Death, the doctor had said, would come soon.

I went to her side, took her hand, and announced myself. Still I was not sure she had recognized who I was or even that I had come into the room. I said I'd like to pray with her. In prayer I called upon the Holy Spirit for trust in the resurrection ...

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