Can I pray for death to come soon?
By Ron King, Hospice Chaplain
When a hospice patient or family member expresses doubt or guilt about hoping death will come quickly and ask what God might think, we face a hard decision together. It isn’t a question that can be answered with medical or scientific certainty. Different opinions and convictions may prevail in the same house or even in the same person from one moment to the next. Moral codes and spiritual practices fail to provide a definite and satisfying solution. Past experience is rarely helpful and advice we seek is often contradictory. Still, we seek out some authoritative answer or reliable guidance to help us navigate a host of conflicting thoughts and feelings.
The same desire plagued people of faith in biblical times as Job wished for death to be set free of his suffering and St. Paul expressed the decision as being “between a rock and a hard place” in his choice about whether to remain on earth to serve others or leave the troubles of this world to go directly into the presence of God.
Some will say, “I’m going to leave my life in God’s hands and refuse all treatment to recover from this disease and wait to see what God might do.” Others will say, “I’m going to see what God might do by pursuing every treatment available to cure this disease and leave the results in God’s hands.” So trusting God is not a solution about what desire to follow, but an attitude to maintain regardless of whatever action we choose.
Along the last mile of our journey on earth, sign posts tend to be less clear
As we approach our final destination, it may be good to notice the sounds and scent of the trail with our eyes forward to see what lies immediately ahead rather than depending on a detailed road map or specific route on the GPS. Few absolute rules seem to apply. Each twist and turn is unique for everyone. This is a time to apply all we have known, felt and wanted in the ways that seem fitting for this step on the path.
We can trust God to bring to mind and heart all we need. If our way is open and connected with the Wisdom around/within us, we can have confidence to pray earnestly for what seems best for this day. God is no stranger to finding His children at heaven’s door surprised and confused, uncertain about entering or staying a bit longer in this life. God receives each prayer and never leaves us alone.