Thursday, April 22, 2010


When does death actually occur? When the brain stops? When the heart stops? When the organs fail? When the doctor says?

I've covered in this other post about the medical considerations.
However, I think spiritual considerations give a new perspective on all of these.

Normally, with a pending 'brain death,' an organization evaluates if the patient is viable for organ donation. The rep from this non-hospital agency gets to know the family in the final days or hours while the patient is medically treated. They learn about the patient's wishes, or the patient's next-of-kin's wishes. If "yes" then the patient, after being declared brain dead, will go to surgery and the organs will be recovered. Then in the OR the patient's heart will be removed and some time in the midst of all this, "death" will occur.

When there is a "soon to be brain dead" patient, someone from the medical team informs the chaplains about this or we learn about it from simply from doing rounds. We, too, get to know the family in the final days or hours. This is the time when the family gathers, the friends come by, the relationship dynamics are set aside (or are aggrivated) , and grieving begins.

This week, I encountered a 'soon to be brain dead' patient, an unmarried young adult with an infant son, and her family. Her father, the next of kin, decided not to agree to organ donation despite what the agency said about how this could benefit others. His reason was quite sacred and gave me pause.

He believed that since he was there when she took her first breath, he wanted to be there when she took her last. He felt responsible for her soul, having created it in the first place, and felt that in her dying breath he would feel her spirit and soul join in his presence.

I felt humbled to hear his understanding of her death. He shared so honestly and with deep grief. What grace he shared in that moment. What courage to see your own child die.

About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "Eloi, Eloi,[c] lama sabachthani?"—which means, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" Matthew 27:46
Many women were there, watching from a distance. They had followed Jesus from Galilee to care for his needs. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee's sons. Matthew 27:55-56

What is your point of view of Death?

No comments:

Post a Comment