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Getting better while on hospice

By Ron King

“Even if our bodies are breaking down on the outside, the person that we are on the inside is being renewed every day.”

2 Corinthians 4:16
Common English Bible

Hospice patients will often request prayer for healing. I always join their faith by praying with complete conviction that healing is possible. God is always pleased when we come with a vulnerable request for our deepest desires.

There are times in hospice care that a patient will regain strength and be discharged from hospice restored to a former degree of health. This is an answer to prayer for healing. We may consider it a miracle or part of the natural healing process we’ve known throughout life. The extra attention of family and hospice caregivers may provide the support needed to regain and strengthen life.

Death can also be an answer to the prayer because the word “health” comes from a root meaning “whole, holy, complete, well.” Even in death we can sing the hymn “It is well with my soul”. There is a completing of life, a wholeness from beginning to end. The end of life can bring completion in regards to ongoing weakness, pain anxiety, waiting and distress. Perfect peace comes as an answer to a prayer for health.

The statement from St. Paul quoted above indicates, however, that we may be getting better at the end of life regardless of what takes place in the body. He declares, in fact, that we are “being renewed” at the very moment “our bodies are breaking down on the outside.” There seems to be something about physical decline that is able to stimulate spiritual growth. When our bodies are weak, we are reminded of realities that are essential to good health.

First of all we are reminded that our physical life is limited. It is limited in time and limited in ability. In facing our limitations we may seek a strength beyond ourselves, an existence that goes beyond this world. This directs our attention to the realm of the spirit where we can explore and benefit from experiences we may ignore or avoid when we are well enough to invest energy in physical endeavors and desires.

Another reality we test and prove during times of inability to care for ourselves is the love and commitment of family and friends. We may assume the willingness of others to sacrifice for our welfare if needed because we know we would make the same sacrifice of love. When caregiving is required, families and friends often enter a spiritual connection with one another that makes commitments visible. This brings health and fullness to our deepest relationships.

Dependence on God and others when we are unable to depend on ourselves also opens a door to the healing that comes from “the person we are on the inside being renewed.” Those who are most independent throughout life may have the greatest difficulty with letting go and allowing others to provide necessary care. Not wanting to be a burden, they may resist caregiving. While maintaining dignity and whatever self care is possible, an opportunity exists to develop the freedom of receiving help and waiting with grace. This is also an answer to the prayer for wholeness.

So we pray always for good health and wellness, knowing this is our destiny.

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