Participants: Shelley Quinn (Host), Derry James
Series Code: IAA
Program Code: IAA000238
00:30 Hello, I'm Shelley Quinn and welcome again to
00:33 Issues and Answers. Today we're going to be talking
00:37 about, I guess, sort of a sensitive topic but yet it's
00:40 something that we will all face in our lifetime.
00:44 You know they say that there are two things that are
00:47 certain in life, death and taxes.
00:50 Well for certain in all countries everyone faces
00:53 death at some point in their life. That is what our program
00:56 is about today. Facing death, dealing with the process.
01:00 You know, the psalmist in the 23rd Psalm, the one that
01:03 is so famous, The Lord is my Shepherd
01:06 I shall not want. He said in verse 4:
01:08 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of
01:12 death I will fear no evil for thy rod and thy staff
01:15 they comfort me. We're going to be talking with
01:18 someone today who has a lot of experience in dealing
01:22 with the death process, helping families go through the
01:26 death process. It is my great joy to welcome Derry James
01:31 back to our program. Derry has a doctorate in ministry
01:35 and she is also a board certified chaplain.
01:38 Derry, you're working as a chaplain even now at a
01:43 hospital aren't you? That's true. And that's in what city?
01:46 Grass Valley, California, and I do some supplemental work
01:50 in Sacramento at a metropolitan hospital there as well.
01:53 I'm so glad that you've come back. We've been talking
01:56 with you over the last few weeks about several different
02:00 topics but today we thought we would draw on your
02:04 expertise, your experience, in facing the death process
02:09 so that we might encourage people at home who I know
02:13 that you have told me that many times when people are
02:17 facing death whether it be the individual or the family
02:21 member who has someone going through this that there are
02:24 a lot of spiritual questions that come up. What are
02:27 some of the most common ones?
02:28 When we are reviewing our life, Shelley, we wonder whether
02:34 our life was worth it and we sometimes wonder if
02:38 we've made a contribution to those around us.
02:42 We're looking at two different sides of this really.
02:46 I'm talking now from the patient's perspective and
02:50 some of the questions that they go through.
02:52 Probably one of the first questions that comes to almost
02:57 any person when they find out that they are in process of
03:01 dying or they have a life- threatening disease is
03:05 Oh God, why me? Why this? Why now?
03:08 Or what did I do to deserve this?
03:11 or is this a punishment? or have you
03:15 withdrawn yourself from me God? Or if there's a God why
03:20 would he allow this to happen? All these different questions
03:24 start coming to a person's mind until they are just
03:27 agonizing sometimes about those. Especially if they
03:31 have guilt in their life and unconfessed sins,
03:33 things that they haven't taken care of.
03:36 Then they agonize with that even more.
03:38 To me I think the most difficult thing
03:43 to go through, and see if this has been your
03:48 experience, is if you're working with a family
03:53 who has a young child who is facing death.
03:57 I would imagine that as a mother or a father it's
04:00 so unnatural for your child to go before you that
04:03 that must be one of the most difficult times in anyone's
04:07 life. It is. Of course it is.
04:09 And to see your child suffer is a horrible thing.
04:14 You know we feel all that and we have this child and
04:19 we have expectations of their life and we think of all
04:23 these things in the future that they are not going
04:27 to be able to do or participate in and our heart
04:30 is wrenched as well as we think of a child that is going
04:34 through a death process. I'd like to turn that around
04:39 though as well, Shelley. When an adult, when a parent
04:43 is going through a dying process sometimes the child
04:48 is left out of that process. We are so focused maybe on
04:52 helping one another as adults that we forget the
04:55 suffering of the child. The child that is old enough to
04:59 love is old enough to grieve and old enough to walk
05:04 through this and they are hurting as well with the
05:09 whole situation. So as you work through first the
05:14 cognition that we are about to face death whether that
05:18 "about to face" in a terminal disease is a month or a
05:22 year but as you begin that process you also begin the
05:26 grieving process. You begin to wonder whether or not
05:30 God has abandoned you and you wonder how this is
05:33 going to be going for you over this next period of time.
05:37 Those are spiritual issues that your heart begins to
05:41 struggle with. Where are you God? Why are you letting
05:45 this happen to me?
05:46 You know what you said just really grabbed me when
05:49 you said that if a child is old enough to love they are
05:53 old enough to grieve. How do you explain the meaning
05:57 of death to a child, a young child?
06:01 That's a very difficult thing because you certainly don't
06:04 want to use the wrong terminology. You don't want
06:09 to say things like... Well let me put it this way.
06:12 I need to back up because of course as a chaplain I
06:16 represent multiple faiths and some faiths believe that
06:20 when you die you immediately go to heaven.
06:22 In those faith groups, the tendency or the
06:28 temptation to say to a child
06:30 is well God wants Uncle Jim, or the angels need them.
06:35 Or if the child is ill, Jesus needs another angel in
06:41 heaven. God's taking her because they are so good,
06:47 which sets a child up for well if God's going to take me
06:50 I'm going to be bad and then you have behavioral
06:53 habits that begin forming and the child lives in fear
06:56 that if they are a good person they are going to die.
06:59 Or if they think that God is taking their mother because
07:02 he just needed someone else up there in heaven to be
07:05 with him. They could be thinking God's a very selfish person
07:09 when he's got all these people and I've only got one mama.
07:13 Or, another thing that happens to children is, you know how
07:16 we discipline our children and sometimes the children will get
07:19 very angry and the little thoughts will go through their
07:23 head, oh I hate you, or oh I wish you were dead and suddenly
07:26 they think that maybe their wish is being fulfilled and it's
07:29 their fault that their parent is dying. So those are all
07:33 difficult things that need to be addressed with children.
07:38 But I'd like to get back into some other issues, Shelley,
07:43 because there's so much to cover with this subject.
07:46 There are so many questions that an individual goes
07:49 through as they face death and that families go through.
07:54 Sometimes family members can think God is punishing me
07:58 because this other family member is dying. Or if I had
08:02 just been a better husband, if I'd just been a better
08:05 wife God wouldn't be taking this person from me.
08:08 So there are all kinds of
08:10 reactions of guilt or shame or
08:13 self-conflict that go on
08:17 as they are walking through
08:21 this whole idea of death. Then you have the whole process
08:26 of death itself and what is this journey going to be like?
08:31 What do I have to endure and how much pain will I
08:33 have to bear and will I be able to live through this?
08:37 People that maybe haven't had a good relationship
08:41 have the social emotional questions in their mind of
08:47 will my family be glad I'm gone? Will they even
08:52 miss me? Do I have time to make it up to them? Do I have
08:56 time to leave them with a good memory? Or you have the
09:00 family members that get angry with the patient
09:04 because they're sick. Like how could you do this to me?
09:06 How could you abandon me? How could you leave me?
09:09 How dare you die. How can I survive alone? How can I
09:12 run the house, how can I take care... how can I pay
09:14 all the bills? How can I? How can I? How can I?
09:19 I think of a friend whose husband has throat
09:22 cancer who smokes and he continued to smoke even
09:26 after his throat cancer. Do you especially see that
09:30 in people who feel that the one who is dying has done
09:35 something to bring on their own death. Maybe they
09:39 were a motorcycle rider and the wife is thinking
09:42 I asked you not to get that motor cycle because
09:45 I knew this was going to happen. Do you see that
09:49 more when people are putting the blame on
09:51 someone because the person who's dying has
09:54 actually either contributed to their death by
09:57 smoking or unhealthy habits or of recklessness?
10:01 Oh, absolutely. The thing that that does instead of
10:05 leaving the survivor with loving memories, it
10:09 leaves them sometime with bitterness and resentment
10:13 that is very, very hard for people to overcome
10:17 particularly if they don't know Jesus. I don't
10:20 want to get off the track here but you bring up
10:23 motorcycle riders. I'll tell you, Shelley, you just
10:26 cannot imagine the horrible deaths that we
10:30 witness all the time because of people on
10:33 motorcycles. That has got to be a devil's tool.
10:38 Sorry but it's just horrible, horrible deaths,
10:41 suffering and disabilities from that; just horrible.
10:45 I think, Shelley, that probably we need
10:51 to help our listening audience, our viewers,
10:56 know how they can help walk along side of a
11:01 person that is going through the dying
11:06 process, because sometimes when we find out
11:08 that someone is dying or facing death it's a
11:10 little uncomfortable to be around them.
11:12 We don't always know what to do. We don't
11:15 know how to help. We may think well I'll bring
11:17 them a meal or I'll assist them that way and
11:20 that's all very important but we don't like to
11:24 talk about it. We pretend it's not there. I think
11:27 it's important for us to be able to know that
11:30 it's all right to be open about it. In fact, it
11:34 frees the family. Instead of living in this little
11:38 capsulation of pretense, this little bubble that
11:41 we can't go there, we can't talk about it, it
11:43 actually frees them to be able to discuss it
11:46 openly and acknowledge where they are in the
11:49 process and what their legitimate needs are.
11:52 So the best thing a person can do is to
11:55 absolutely be themselves with these people.
11:58 Let me ask you a question. What is coming to
12:02 my mind is I'm a very direct person. The Lord
12:07 generally graces me with tact but I was thinking
12:11 of two instances. One was an elderly woman at
12:16 our church that we knew she was dying and I
12:19 would talk with her very openly about it and
12:22 she enjoyed that because she said most people
12:25 keep trying to deny my death. But then on the
12:29 other hand with my mother-in-law my
12:34 sister-in-law couldn't accept the fact that
12:37 she was dying so to try to discuss is openly in
12:41 the family was met with a lot of resistance.
12:45 How do you know when to be open and when
12:50 to back off? It takes a lot of discernment.
12:56 It takes a lot of wisdom.
12:57 Does it take some testing of the waters to know
13:00 when to put your toe in the water and bring it
13:03 back. Well it does that,
13:05 But, Shelley, I'm back to my favorite subject
13:08 as you know. If you're walking with God and
13:11 you're totally dependent upon him and you ask
13:14 God to speak through you and work through you,
13:17 God's going to tell you when to be quiet and when
13:20 to speak. That really is a prayer of mine often
13:23 is Lord help me know when to speak and when
13:26 to be silent. Would it be fair to say to
13:29 someone who's watching who may be facing this
13:32 process themself that it would be liberating to
13:35 them if they're not bothered by speaking
13:38 about it, it would be liberating to others if
13:41 the one who's dying would actually say it's
13:44 okay if we talk about this?
13:45 Very good point, very good point. Because in
13:49 doing so you will help a person not only be
13:52 themselves around you but be able to show you
13:55 their own human kindnesses. They'll be able to give
14:00 you the opportunity to speak about it and help
14:04 them understand exactly where you are with it.
14:08 Is it okay ever, I think I know the answer to this,
14:13 but I'm just going to pose the question, in your
14:17 opinion is it okay to be humorous around someone
14:22 who is dying? Absolutely. See that would be my
14:26 answer. Yes absolutely. But again it's testing the
14:31 water and there's a time and place for everything.
14:34 Obviously if the person is not open to that at the
14:38 moment that's not a place you want to go.
14:40 But you don't have to be all morbid and all
14:43 serious. They still are alive, they're still living.
14:46 Some of the greatest things you can do with
14:49 that person is affirm them. That can be reviewing
14:52 the memories with them, some of the fun times
14:55 and affirming them how they have made a mark on
14:58 your life and going so far as to let them know how
15:02 and why you're going to miss them. It's okay if
15:06 you cry. You know tears are a language everybody
15:09 understands. It's nice to know that you're loved
15:13 that much and that you will be missed. If everybody
15:16 tries to put on this false face of buoying you up all
15:18 the time you're going to think I wonder if anybody
15:21 is going to miss me. So to let a person know that
15:23 you love them so much and that there's going to
15:26 be a void in your life once they're gone is
15:28 critical to tell them. Another critical thing to do
15:32 of course, and I think we've talked about this before
15:35 but that reconciliation peace, if things are not okay
15:39 between you this is a time to make sure and get
15:42 everything straight; to not only ask for forgiveness
15:46 but to offer forgiveness so that the person that is
15:49 going through the death process can have peace
15:52 of mind and heart and that the person left living does
15:56 not have regrets that they harbored grudges or
16:00 problems. You know, when my mother-in-law
16:03 who I was very close with, she was a precious
16:07 saintly woman, and she had
16:11 told me, oh I don't know, some years before
16:15 that one of her dreams was that before she died she
16:19 wanted to crush rose petals on her bed and sleep on
16:24 rose petals. So when I knew that she was facing her
16:29 last days, I ordered her four dozen roses.
16:32 So when they came to the house I told her let's crush
16:36 these petals and do this. You know, I think sometimes
16:41 my personal opinion is sometimes we wait to express
16:46 our love in demonstrative ways till after the death
16:50 and it's something that I believe that if you can
16:54 fulfill some small dream of someone to give
16:57 something. Send them flowers before the funeral.
17:00 Absolutely. You know I was thinking it would be great
17:03 to have a memorial service for everybody before they
17:06 die then you would know what people thought of you.
17:08 It would either affirm you or give you a chance to
17:11 change their opinion before your last breath.
17:13 I'd talk a minute, Shelley, while we have a little time
17:18 left about the person that is actually dying and the
17:23 grieving process they go through, not only for their
17:27 own life but for the things they're going to miss in
17:32 the life of those they love. I'm a Grandma
17:36 and I would grieve the fact that I didn't see my
17:41 grandsons grow up and get to graduate or that I
17:44 would be able to witness their wedding, those kind
17:47 of things. So I would like to offer as an incentive to
17:52 our people that may be facing death or to just tuck
17:57 in the back of their minds that if that ever happens
18:00 or you're in a position where that is going on with
18:04 you or any number of other circumstances where
18:07 you wish you could be part of that you might either
18:11 write a letter yourself or dictate a letter that
18:14 could be read at your grandchild's graduation for
18:17 example from grandma. I wish I was there but I am
18:21 proud of you that you made it or I wish I could see
18:25 you in your wedding dress. But this love gift that
18:29 says I'm thinking of you and I wish I were there.
18:32 Then offer even your blessing, maybe a prayer of
18:36 blessing in the letter. That's kind of an assignment
18:40 that I will give to some of our patients that are in
18:45 maybe the last month or the final weeks of dying.
18:49 It helps them get a little bit out of themselves and
18:54 it helps them do something productive and it also is
18:57 a rich gift for the family too.
19:02 It would be releasing that painful emotion in you
19:05 but what a wonderful love gift to the family.
19:08 Yes absolutely. Then the other thing that comes
19:12 to my mind right now as we are talking is that we
19:16 have people in the hospital that have been struggling
19:19 with their relationship with God or maybe they left
19:23 a church years ago and they didn't reconcile the
19:26 differences or problems that they had and they have
19:30 been angry at the church. Maybe they've never
19:33 chosen to follow God but suddenly here they are
19:36 and they're at the very door of death and they
19:39 think where am I going from here? Suddenly that
19:43 becomes an important question to them.
19:44 In all of those cases, and probably others, that
19:47 you may be thinking of or that could come to mind,
19:50 the main question underlying all of that is
19:54 can I accept Jesus Christ right now and how dare
19:58 I accept Jesus Christ with my last breath when I
20:02 didn't live for him? I just want to affirm and
20:06 acknowledge the fact that Jesus dies for us and
20:09 that yes it would have been a good thing if we
20:11 had given our whole life to God and allowed him
20:15 to use us and bless us but if we did not, if we've
20:18 blown our whole life and we're up to the end, if
20:21 we truly are reaching out and we want Jesus,
20:24 Jesus would rather have that deathbed confession
20:27 of faith so that we can spend eternity with him
20:30 that to lose us. Thief on the cross. Exactly.
20:35 People are sometimes reluctant to do that
20:39 even though they may want to because they don't
20:41 feel like they deserve the gift of eternal life or
20:44 because they feel like they shouldn't ask at this
20:48 late date. I just want to reassure everyone that
20:52 Jesus love is so great and so all-encompassing that
20:56 he would rather have that than not have them at all.
21:00 As a friend, I've had to support a number of friends
21:04 who've lost a spouse or a child or maybe a mother
21:08 or a father. What are some of the best things that
21:12 we can do as friends when we have people within
21:16 our church or others who are going through this?
21:19 They are experiencing a death in the family or
21:22 perhaps even they are... Are there certain
21:24 rituals that we can do to help support somebody
21:28 that's facing this? Well as far as a ritual goes
21:32 the actual person that is dying in many traditions
21:36 or most traditions that dying person wants some
21:39 kind of an anointing prayer. That would be a
21:42 ritual or maybe a communion Eucharistic service
21:46 where they have the communion cup and bread,
21:49 those kind of things. Those would be the more
21:53 spiritual symbolisms and rituals. As far as us
21:57 coming along side and supporting them, I think
21:59 the best thing we can do is let them know, I'm
22:02 here for you. I just want to be your 24-hour friend
22:05 for right now and if you need me, if you need to
22:09 call and cry, if you need to scream, whatever you
22:12 need, I just want to be here for you. I want to be
22:16 your sounding board. I want to support you through
22:19 this. I want you to know I'll be upholding you in
22:22 prayer. I'll be along side for you. For the whole
22:25 family, one of the richest gifts we can give them
22:28 besides having prayer with them and letting them
22:30 know they're not being forgotten is that memory
22:34 review that we've already talked about. For our
22:37 families before we get to that point, and this is
22:41 a subject nobody really likes to talk about,
22:43 thankfully we're a little more open about it now
22:46 in our culture but one of the greatest gifts we
22:49 can give our families is to have open discussions
22:52 about this even before we're facing death where
22:56 we come to an agreement on advanced care planning
23:01 and we share our wills and wishes about memorial
23:05 service, funerals, cremation, how we want to be
23:09 dealt with after our death, but we have this openly
23:13 so we come to a joint understanding. Some of
23:17 the most painful things that we go through at the
23:19 hospital is when there has been no previous
23:22 discussion. For example, we have people on life
23:25 support and family members have to make those
23:28 tough decisions whether of not to leave them on
23:31 life support or remove that life support, particularly
23:34 when there are questions of brain damage and so on.
23:38 Because it's never been talked about they don't
23:41 know what the patient would really want.
23:43 Sometimes you get feuding within the family or
23:47 sometimes you have one person say you decide,
23:49 you decide and so all the decisions are on that
23:54 person. Shelley, they have so much then to bear
23:58 the rest of their life. Sometimes guilt, questions,
24:01 if I hadn't made that decision, if I'd gone the other
24:04 way what would have happened? But if people
24:08 will take the time to do advance care planning and
24:11 talk to their families and be in agreement, then
24:15 none of the fighting happens in the family,
24:17 there's no confusion, there's no question.
24:20 It's simple a matter of this is what mom wanted
24:23 and whether we want it or not we need to abide
24:27 by mom's desires. This was her life and this is how
24:31 she wanted her life to end.
24:32 You know, I just want to pitch this idea in here
24:37 as well. It's that I try to teach when I go out
24:40 and talk to groups and something similar to this
24:43 comes up, I try to teach everyone that if you're
24:47 over the age of 18 you should have a will.
24:50 If you have a child, you should have a will.
24:53 People think that they don't need a will when
24:56 they're young, but we don't know what's going to
25:00 happen. Even if you're 18 years old and you have
25:02 nothing in the bank, you may have an insurance
25:06 policy on your life and without a will, I've been
25:09 through so much counseling where I've been
25:12 counseling people who have had a parent or someone
25:17 die without a will and there's a terrible division in
25:22 the family afterwards. I've seen close families
25:25 be torn apart over those type of things or when
25:28 they don't know where a child is going to be left.
25:33 Shelley, you asked a minute ago how we can
25:37 come along side of the family. I just would like to read
25:41 this poem because I think it's kind of all-encompassing.
25:44 It says: You think you understand. Don't tell me that
25:47 you understand. Don't tell me that you know, don't
25:51 tell me that I will survive, how I will surely grow.
25:54 Don't tell me that this is just a test, that I am
25:57 truly blessed, that I am chosen for this task apart
26:01 from all the rest. Don't come to me with answers
26:04 that can only come from me. Don't tell me how my
26:08 grief will pass, that I will soon be free. Don't
26:12 stand in pious judgment of the bonds I must untie.
26:16 Don't tell me how to suffer, and don't tell me how to
26:19 cry. My life is filled with selfishness. My pain is all
26:23 I see, but I need you, I need your love
26:26 unconditionally. Accept me in my ups and downs.
26:31 I need someone to share. Just hold my hand and
26:36 let me cry and say My friend, I care.
26:41 How true. And God says in scripture that
26:45 God will be our guide even unto death. If we turn
26:50 to Revelation 2:10, Shelley, it says: Be faithful unto
26:55 death and I will give you the crown of life.
26:58 Amen. And he says in Isaiah 57:1-2: The righteous
27:03 man perishes and no one lays it to heart. Merciful
27:07 and devout men are taken away with no one considering
27:11 that the uncompromisingly upright and godly person
27:15 is taken away from the calamity and evil to come.
27:18 He in death enters into peace, they rest in their
27:21 beds; each one who walks straight and upright in his
27:26 uprightness. I believe that many times we don't
27:28 understand why God doesn't answer our prayer. He
27:31 has our eternal benefit in mind. So God knows the
27:34 end from the beginning. Derry, thank you so much
27:37 for being here today. Our time is all gone again.
27:40 I just want to thank you for joining us and I pray
27:44 that the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of
27:47 the Father and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit
27:50 will be with you today and unto death.
27:53 Join us again next time.