Shaped by lament and hope

Let's face it," my clergy friend said to me. "We clergy are much better with people after they are dead than when they are dying. We know how to do funerals. But we find it very difficult to be present with and to care for people at the end of life."

My friend spoke these words as we discussed what a divinity school might do to begin focusing more clearly on caring for people as they face death. Because of broad changes in medical care and in our culture, more and more people are reaching adulthood without ever having been present when someone has died. I asked a group of 60 undergraduates how many of them had watched someone die or been present shortly thereafter. These students would have a sensory appreciation of the reality of death. Only one student raised her hand.


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