12.4.5.1 Caring for the terminally ill and dying

Many people suppress the thought of dying and death and therefore avoid any dealings with the terminally ill. This can have various reasons, for example fear of the questions the dying person may ask, or the knowledge of the limited nature of earthly existence.

The death of another person is a reminder of one's own mortality. Often people are overwhelmed when it comes to providing help through love and care to the dying. However, this is exactly what a person near death requires the most. He may be afraid of uncontrollable pain and suffering, an agonising death, the psychological, physical, and perhaps even financial burdens imposed on his relatives, the consequences of the life he has led, uncertainty, and the end of his existence.

Belief in the living God grants a kind of certainty that extends beyond earthly life, namely the assurance of eternal life. This makes it easier to take leave and commend oneself completely to the grace of God.

A New Apostolic Christian who lives his faith does not face death unprepared. On the one hand, he knows that his soul will continue to live. On the other hand, he believes in the resurrection of the dead and in eternal life in everlasting fellowship with the triune God. Grasping grace through Jesus' sacrifice has liberated him from sin. He has been reborn out of water and the spirit. He has the promise of eternal life (Romans 6: 22).

In dying it is a special comfort to know that through grace he has become free from the power of sin, and, with a view to the suffering, death, and resurrection of Christ, has been destined for eternal life with Jesus Christ (Romans 6: 8-11).

Ultimately, however, even believers remain afraid of dying and death. This fear must therefore be taken seriously and not be considered a sign of insufficient faith. It is important to keep alive the hope in eternal life with God and the comfort associated with this. The dying person need not be provided with conclusive answers to questions concerning the meaning of life, suffering, or death. Providing support to a dying person entails, first and foremost, accepting him with all his fears and needs. One should be close to the dying person on his difficult path and also admit one's own fears and weaknesses. By humbly acknowledging the magnitude of the inevitable end of human life, it is possible to achieve a truly supportive connection which the dying person can most certainly feel.

The assurance of a reunion with those who have preceded us into the beyond provides support to the dying person during this phase of taking leave.

Part of this support for the dying is the proclamation of the forgiveness of sins and the peace of the Risen One, as well as the celebration of Holy Communion. Partaking in the Lord's body and blood grants the dying person fellowship of life with the Son of God. In this manner, the dying person is comforted and strengthened, making it easier for him to proceed on the difficult path awaiting him.

It is also important to provide care for the relatives. They must come to terms with the loss of a loved one and cope with their feelings and thoughts during this phase. It is strengthening for relatives to be given due recognition for all that which they were able to do for the sick and dying person.

See also