Forget what Jesus said about the horrible day when "brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death" (Mark 13:12-13a). That was then, this is now.
Forget, too, what the apostle Paul said about death being "the wages of sin" (Romans 6:23) and "the last enemy that will be destroyed" (1 Corinthians 15:26) and that it will be
"swallowed up in victory" (1 Corinthians 15:54). What did he know?
And don't even give a thought to what might come next. What difference does it make? All roads lead to the heaven of your dreams, whatever that may be.
What matters today is having a "good death," my incredibly smart friend Julie told me sorrowfully
So I looked it up. I googled "good death" and, by George, she was right. I got 665,000 hits -- enough to show that it's a subject of serious discussion among academics and healthcare thought leaders, but not enough to indicate that it's a phrase people toss about as just another modern cliche.
So what is a "good death"?
An About.com article advises us that a group called the Debate of the Age Health and Care Study Group has defined it thusly:
· To know when death is coming, and to understand what can be expected [editor's note: before one breathes one's last, no doubt -- not "what can be expected" after breathing one's last]
· To be able to retain control of what happens.
· To be afforded dignity and privacy.
· To have control over pain relief and other symptom control.
· To have choice and control over where death occurs (at home or elsewhere).
· To have access to information and expertise of whatever kind is necessary.
· To have access to any spiritual or emotional support required.
· To have access to hospice care in any location, not only in hospital.
· To have control over who is present and who shares the end.
· To be able to issue advance directives which ensure wishes are respected.
· To have time to say goodbye, and control over other aspects of timing.
· To be able to leave when it is time to go, and not to have life prolonged pointlessly.
"These ... principles are good ones," the article added, "to incorporate [in] health care services, professional codes and care plans or missions for end of life care organizations and institutions."
Note that if a dying person needs any sort of spiritual or emotional support, well then, by all means provide it! Be like Mother Theresa and help that Buddhist be the best Buddhist he can be!
And for Pete's sake, do not harass the dying with any talk of trusting in some Imaginary Friend. In fact, don't even let anyone with such an intolerant belief system near people striving to achieve a "good death." He or she might have some lunatic idea about "pulling them out of the fire" (Jude 23).
So that's it: In our enlightened culture, death is no longer a penalty, or the enemy, or something to be swallowed up in victory. No siree! As long as a "good death" can be assured, everything will be ok.
Welcome to our brave new world, where a "good death" could well be the prelude to a very bad eternity.