Death and Dying
by Rev. Frances Montgomery, NST. CM
Sunflower Chapel, Dayton, Ohio
We have talked about life and how we, as Spiritualists, try to live responsibly. We have spoken about reincarnation and the time spent in Spirit between incarnations. (Reference: Journey of Souls by Michael Newton, PhD) We have read and investigated what souls do while in the spirit realm and how they choose the life lessons they feel the need to work on in their next (or this present) lifetime. We have discussed - and demonstrated to the best of our ability - communication with those who are no longer living on the earth plane. We have danced around everything on the whole subject of our religion except actual physical death - and the process of dying.
We know we aren’t going to get out of this world with the physical body intact and we know we must make the transition from the physical to the spiritual body. I don’t know that I have ever heard this topic openly discussed in a Sunday morning church service or anyplace else. I am going to try to do that today.
Yes, today I want to try to talk about dying.
We, every one of us, are afraid to die. We are afraid to die because we are fearful of change. We know who we are and how we are today – but – and this is a BIG but – eventually we are going to have to face the job of making that big step – the actual transition from this physical earthly body to the spirit body. Many of us profess that we aren’t afraid of death, only the means by which it comes. Everyone wants to be viable, healthy, and functioning independently, alive, right up to the very end. Ideally, we would spend a wonderful day with friends, go home and to bed that night, say our prayers and awaken in Spirit. Done deal!
It doesn’t always happen that way, does it? No one wants to envision themselves sitting for years in a nursing home, drooling down our chest, spilling our food, sitting in wet Depends because the aids are overworked, not making sense when people visit, or even, if the mind remains good, spending years in a nursing facility unable to care for yourself, being dependent on others or a burden to your family. We rail against those situations, but they happen every day to a whole lot of people we know and love and even more folks we don’t know but who are also trying to either hang onto life as they know it or trying to get out of this world and not knowing how to accomplish it.
How does one do that? How does one leave this earth plane?
First, I want to tell you a couple of true stories.
My husband Jim had an uncle; Grover Wiedemann, who knew how to do just that – He, somehow, knew how to die. I believe I may have learned that secret by osmosis; by simply observing his process.
Uncle Grover and Aunt Anna were farm people. They had grown up on farms, had married rather young but never had been blessed with children. Grover’s father, Jim’s grandfather, had been a farmer before him. Grover and Anna had inherited their farm from Anna’s parents. They lived down in southern Ohio and the nearest “big city” was Washington Courthouse. Their farm was close to Leesburg, Ohio.
Anna had chickens and sheep, Grover had cattle and hogs. They raised corn, soybeans, wheat, just your typical American family farm. It was an absolutely wonderful life to experience in those days.
They had celebrated a joyous 60th wedding anniversary when they were in their early 80’s. Grover continued to farm every year just as he had done all his life. They had been blessed with a wonderfully healthy life. I think the only time I heard of Uncle Grover ever having been ill was in his early 80’s, when he had his gall bladder removed. It was his first and only hospital visit in his life as he had been born at home.
When they were in their early 90’s, Aunt Anna wanted to go to the nursing home in Washington Courthouse for the winter. Winters on the farm were confining, they lived down a hill and there was a young neighbor they were close with who helped with the farm work during the summers and could take care of the livestock in the winter. Grover didn’t want to do that, but Anna wanted someone to wait on her, fix the meals, wanted people to interact with during the long cold winter days. Grover had no desire to go but he would not let her go there without him. They had never traveled much nor been they been separated in their entire married life. He finally agreed and they went to the Home for the winter.
When spring came the deal was that they would go back to the farm so that he could put in his crops. When spring came though, Anna did not want to go back to the house and the work. She wanted to stay in the home. She liked not having to cook, clean, do laundry. She enjoyed having these things done for her and interacting with fellow residents, playing cards, etc.. Grover, on the other hand, was not happy in the home when the weather broke. He wanted to go back to his land, take care of his animals and get his crops in the ground. Anna refused. Again, Grover would not leave her.
Jim and I had gone down on a Sunday afternoon ride to visit them. Grover was lying on his bed, which had been made. He was fully dressed, lying with his hands across his stomach. He was not ill. He was not asleep, but his eyes were closed. The nurse’s aide said he had been like that for two days. He answered when we spoke to but didn’t move or open his eyes. He wasn’t talkative but didn’t ignore us. He was simply polite. He really had no desire to converse. He told us that Anna was down the hall in another room and gave us the room number. We went down to visit her. Anna wasn’t happy - Grover had not been eating. He hadn’t eaten since several days before and now wasn’t taking fluids. She ranted a bit, but we had a nice visit with her. Grover continued to lie there like that for three days. He passed on the third day. I believe he was 98 when he died. He was still in excellent health!
The moral of this is that Grover knew how to die. If he could not go back to his beloved farm, he refused to stay in the home. He wouldn’t leave Anna, but he just wasn’t staying there.
Anna lived several years after Grover died before she, too, made her transition.
My husband Jim was 88 in the spring of 2006. He had a gall bladder attack and had to have surgery. Jim had had other health issues but nothing life threatening was going on. Due to diabetes, he had lost a toe and was also on a blood thinner. To perform the surgery, they had to take him off the coumadin. The surgery was a success, but he was not yet back on the blood thinner. He had a stroke during the night in the hospital three days after the surgery and was moved to a nursing home.
The stroke didn’t affect his mind or his body with paralysis. It did leave him unable to communicate, which is called “aphasic.” His daughters had been in town for a funeral and visited him for a little over a week until they left for their own homes in other states. Jim had been responsive to everything while the girls were here but after they left, he started refusing to eat.
Wava, Jim's sister, was in the same home for rehabilitation and therapy after knee replacement. She came to his room and they watched a baseball game one evening; She tried to get him to attempt writing his name; to draw him into conversation. I knew he was depressed because he couldn’t communicate well. I also knew he had struggled with a lot of pain and discomfort for the last several years. When I visited the next day Wava related what a nice evening they had spent together. They had watched a baseball game and she had tried to get him to attempt to write.
I spoke with Wava rather sharply telling her we could not have it both ways. You could not be interested in the television and the ball games, trying to learn to write again, etc. when you were attempting to die. I know that hurt her and I am sorry for that. She and I were sisters in law, and I believe we had become close friends through the years. She was immensely helpful during several stressful times in our lives. I wish I had handled that better, but she was greatly comforted by having had that last companionable evening with her brother and I am thankful she had that.
In short, Jim first refused to take food and then even liquids. He was quiet and uncommunicative in his bed. He made his transition 4 days after his daughters had gone back to their respective states.
Dr. Palmer, at Heartland, told me he could not understand why Jim died; that he should have gone on for a good several years. He only looked at me strangely when I said I was pleased he had not done that. Doctors take the Hippocratic Oath, swearing to preserve life to the best of their ability for as long as they are able.
I was thankful then and am thankful yet today that Jim chose NOT to do that. He chose not to live in that manner, not to put himself - or selfishly, me, - through that scenario.
In my opinion, there are worse things than death. Sometimes, life is one of them.
I am not saying the decision for death belongs to anyone except the individual involved. If your “person” is fighting to live, wants to eat, hopes to get better, regardless of their condition or medical prognoses, your job is to be supportive, get them food, give them liquids or anything else they want. Assist them in their fight to get well.
If, however, they are not interested in eating, do not tell them they have to keep up their strength and “beat this.” Allow them to make that decision for themselves and then go along with their choice. Remember everyone has free will. We never have the right to impose our will on any other person. It is up to us to honor their personal choice of fighting or letting go.
I have a second true story to relate. It concerns a spiritualist Minister from Camp Ashley just above Delaware, Ohio. His wife was also a Spiritualist Minister and a medium. The wife died. The husband did not want to go on without her. He lay down and did the three-day thing. I do not know where he learned about it – but apparently, he knew. This man did NOT die. It simply was not his time to go yet. You really cannot will yourself to die unless it is your time to go. When he decided or discovered he wasn’t going to die, he got up, made some soup and realized he was to go ahead and live until his time to transition arrived. This man only passed within the last four or five years while his wife died more than 10 years ago.
There are lessons for others around us when things occur. There are reasons why things happen the way they do. We do not have total control over our lives and deaths. However, we have always heard about the Native American Indians and the Alaskan Eskimos who went off by themselves when they knew their time was close.
My point is that there is a way to die when you know the time is right and you are ready to take that step. I can only pray that when my time comes, I have the ability to realize it and the courage to do it like Uncle Grover and Jim did it. It is simply a total withdrawal from the earthly stimulations; television, food, drink, conversation, other folks – it is making peace within yourself with your God Force and then letting go.
As the Bible says in Ecclesiastes, Chapter 3:
– “to everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die.”
Let us pray that when that time comes, we will know and recognize it. Let us pray that when that time arrives, we are able to deal with it serenely and with the knowledge that we will be alive and well on the spirit plane. We will only have dropped our earthly body. We will be met by those we have loved. We will still be ourselves; well, and free from pain. All religions I am familiar with teach that we will be with God. I have so frequently heard people say, “they are in a better place.” Spiritualism teaches us what to expect and Uncle Grover, God bless him, taught me how to make that transition from this life to the next one in a graceful manner. I can only pray that I have his courage and conviction. I wish the same for you.
May Infinite Intelligence bless every one of us and give us the courage to face life and that final transition with the understanding and blessing of Spirit.