A time or two in the past I have mentioned the Rev. Forrest Church (pictured here), whom I've come to know at least a little. He's dying of cancer and he spent much of the early part of this year pushing himself hard to finish a book he wanted to write, a book that has a title -- unlike the title of some books -- that really describes what's inside, Love & Death: My Journey Through the Valley of the Shadow.
It was officially released just a few days ago, and I want to share a few passages from it with you this weekend as a way to honor Forrest and also a way to suggest that you and the people you know who are going to die (that's everyone, unless I miss my guess) might benefit from reading the book.
Forrest spent many years as senior minister of All Souls Unitarian Church of New York City. Because he's a Unitarian-Universalist and I'm a Presbyterian, we hold somewhat different theologies. But that doesn't mean that I can't learn from his experience and his careful attention to what he's going through.
For instance, I love this advice to those facing death soon:
"Take those who love you, one at a time, and sit down and ask them how they're feeling about your death. Then shut your mouth and listen. . . . Letting people grieve is simply another way to let them love you. It's not your fault that you are dying. Don't make it their fault that they are grieving. . . . Bless their tears. Tell them they mean the world to you. And before you know it, you will be crying, too, for them, for you, for the whole aching world."
I also like this:
" The peace of extinction is different from the peace of fulfillment, of course. Yet, whether to fulfillment or extinction, when God carries us home, it will be to a place of eternal rest. No promise is more comforting and none, for me, more certain."
Well, as regular readers of my blog and my column know, I write about death a lot because I agree with Forrest that none of us can understand our life if we don't somehow make sense of our death, nor can we understand our death if we fail to grasp the gift that our lives are.
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DEFENDING A WWII POPE
Pope Benedict XVI says that Pope Pius XII "spared no effort" to save Jews in the Holocaust, and, thus, should be moved toward sainthood. That's a profoundly debatable proposition. And I would have felt much better about such a conclusion had it come from Pope John Paul II, the best pope the Jews ever had. For a view of Pius XII and the Holocaust from the Jewish Virtual Library, click here.
To read my latest Kansas City Star work, click here. (My Saturday column this weekend is about religious conversion -- and some people paying scholarly attention to the phenomenon.)