Note: This interview took place with the United Methodist Reporter.
Rob Moll, an award-winning journalist and editor-at-large withChristianity Today, has written extensively on health-care issues and has served as a hospice volunteer. He is convinced that Christians have forgotten their tradition of “dying well.”
Mr. Moll talked about his new book The Art of Dying: Living Fully Into the Life to Come (IVPress) with managing editorRobin Russell.
Many people are uncomfortable with the idea of being around someone who is dying. You describe your own awkwardness being around your aunt Eileen. What did you learn?
I came away from it thinking I needed to know how to approach it, and how to be the kind of person who was able to talk to somebody in a meaningful way on his or her deathbed. It was a skill that I needed to have, an ability that I would need again later in my life, multiple times. It wasn’t something that I could avoid.
The Christian tradition, you write, includes the experience of “the good death.” Methodists called it a “happy death.” What does that look like?
It was a death that was prepared for, whether it came quickly and someone’s life had prepared them, or perhaps it came more slowly and they were able to take some time to prepare themselves and family members. It includes both a spiritual preparation for eternal life as well as preparing yourself physically: your relationships with others and your own personal effects. Jesus, from the cross, asked his disciple to take care of his mother.
Secondly, it involves a willingness to die. When Jesus went to the cross, he wasn’t eager to do so, but he was willing to do so. I think the tradition of the happy death includes a willingness to die; if this is what God calls me to at this time, I have to be willing to undergo that. And then it often involves last words—in a sense, closing out relationships. And that may require asking for forgiveness or saying “I love you,” maybe even a charge for the ones who would survive you.
Lastly, it included an ability to relay an account of that entrance into eternity. People would literally say, “I see the heavenly gates before me and I hear the angels singing.” The idea that people were narrating their entrance into eternity was extremely valuable to those who were part of that happy death tradition. It provided a confidence for loved ones. It gave comfort; it gave peace to survivors.
To read the whole article, visit The United Methodist Reporter.