February 3, 2010

On Death and Dying

On Sunday, January 31, 2010, my mother, Elizabeth Westerdahl, age 101, passed away in the Geneva General Hospital in Geneva, New York. Her death, the result of a stroke, was peaceful, and the doctors and nurses who attended to her did everything possible to make her final days comfortable.

Mother’s death prompts me to comment on her faith and her expectations following her passing.

Most of us rarely think of death or dying. It is an unrealistic attitude for we all know that someday we will die, and we betray our fear of death when we say, “Let’s not talk of dying. Let’s talk of something more pleasant.”

But what is there to fear for if we believe in the promises of Scripture, God has prepared for us, behind the curtain of death, a life of beauty, peace and love; a life of reunion with loved ones; a life without sorrow, tears or pain.

In the words of St. Paul, God has prepared for us things beyond our seeing, things beyond our hearing, things beyond our imagining ___ all prepared by God for those who love Him.

Those of us who have listened to the thrushes' song or have taken the time to watch a sunset are more likely to view the future like Bishop Warren Chandler who, when he lay dying, was asked by a close friend, “Do you dread crossing the river of death?” The Bishop smiled and said with conviction, “Why should I be afraid? My Father owns the land on both sides of the river.”

Mother was a woman of great faith, and she believed God created this world, a world in which we are but mortal visitors. Because of her faith, I invite you to believe, as I do, that Elizabeth Westerdahl is living now in a world where everyone is immortal.