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By Pieter Houghton
| His Story | Comments on Death |

HOW DOES FAITH FACTOR INTO THE PROCESS OF DEATH?

"I can only speak personally. I've always had a belief in God. It's always been something within me. I haven't always believed in the church. I think when you find you are going to die, that part of you that is so convinced of the living presence of God or the Creator in the Universe that is within you becomes alive because it becomes more real because you actually are merging back into the universe. So my experience of it was that I became more connected with it, somehow, with the idea and concept of God."


"I think if you've got a belief system and you have moved away from it, the approach of death makes you revisit it. This certainly happened to me. Not that I got far away because I always deeply believed in God. But one didn't always deeply believe in the church. But when it came down to it, one wanted the comforts of the church. You wanted the last rights...you wanted the priest to be there and so on. So I think it's sort of a visceral thing, something fundamentally inside. This is the way you've been taught to die. And you want to die gracefully that way. So I think there is a renewal of faith towards the end in some people."

"It isn't the process of dying or the death itself that makes a difference. It's something to do with the inner soul, with the existential angst that you feel. I always feel that because I have a belief in God, I don't feel that anything I experience is outside the ability of myself to endure it. And I think that's true of many people who believe, they can endure it because they have a sense that they are connected with the universe and God is part of them."

ON PAIN AND SUFFERING

"Pain and death and suffering are, to some degree, human terms. But what we do know about the universe is that entropy is part of it. Things are born and they die�perish. That's the nature of the universe. I don't think you can blame God for the fact that you, as a person in the universe, are going to suffer entropy and death. It's something we have to learn to deal with as human beings. This is part of the human condition. So my view is to avoid blaming God for such things. We have ourselves to blame for some of the darkness in the world. We also are creatures of the universe. So it's no good complaining. I mean it doesn't seem the right question to me."

"A lot of people think that God ought to relieve suffering and that if there is a loving God its impermissible. It seems to me that we are stuck with suffering. We've got a habit. And we have to deal with it. And it's the resource and the way you use your spiritual-within that counts. That's what I tried to do. I tried to use that resource to overcome my fear and worry about death."

"Suffering can cause a person to lose their will to carry on. I think we have to understand that that is part of the natural process. At first, when you are dying, your instinct is to fight against it and to get relief. Then you go through a period where you accept it - but the symptoms are under control - and you can think about things. But when you get to the next and final period of dying, which is the dissolution of the self, all your systems begin to fail. You're wasted. You can't do things. You've got a problem then. Why stay alive? Your life has actually ended. You're just in the dissolution, so you might as well die. And I think that's natural. Sometimes, in a way you've left the world before you actually die. And this is very noticeable because people withdraw from the world and become very passive and in a sense, they are just waiting for that moment of release."

"Death has to do with the dissolution of the body and the suffering involved and pain, and wasting. Naturally all our genes, all our instincts are against this process and we're called by it. But it is a natural part of life. Everything dies sooner or later. Maybe we can extend life for a hundred years or so, but even so, sooner or later, we'll dissolve. We'll go back to the universe. And I think we have to understand that's a natural part of life and we have to stop being so scared of suffering and death. It's something�because we're human, we can endure and we can deal with."

"I think we have to stop being so scared of death and suffering. Of course it's against all our instincts as human beings. Of course it's against our feelings of compassion. But it's the way of the universe. It's who we are. We are born, in a way, to have a time - and then to die and to rejoin the universe in some other way. I believe that we've been too precious about death and dying and suffering. We have to learn that�I'm a human being�because I'm a human being, I can endure this. It is part of my experience. And I am returning to the universe. And it's about time we taught people more about the process of dying. So it was less fearful. Because once you know what it is, it is less fearful."

"One of the things I have come to believe is that we must stop being afraid of death. We're human beings. We're born to die. We're going to die, anyway. We may be able to extend lifespan a few years, but sooner or later, we'll dissolve back into the universe. This is the universe God made where things come to be and to perish. And we're part of that universe. Why are we so afraid? Nothing human is foreign to us, including death. And we have to learn to live with death and to accept it as part of the universal way of things."

"One thing I noticed that some dying people is that they come to a reconciliation within themselves. First about the meaning of their own life and the future of their families and friends because very often people are very worried about leaving them behind. So they have to develop the hope and the understanding that it's ok. Indeed you have to sometimes to give people permission to die. You have to say it's ok to die. And part of that is to give them hope that the person they are leaving and that they are worried about will be ok and will, you know, enjoy their lives. So that's one aspect of it. The other aspect is there any hope for them? It's slightly more complex. Most people come to the point of view that...well...it's very hard to explain this without giving examples."

ON LETTTING GO...

"In some cases I have noticed that people want to talk about their real situation. They don't want to talk about the false situation that they feel their relatives are living in, that there is some hope, that there will be some treatment result and so on. One of the great difficulties, sometimes, is persuading a person to stop treatment and to get good palliation. And it's a very important decision because you recognize you're going to die when that decision is taken. It's very difficult sometimes for relatives to do that. Because they still want to help this person. We don't want them to suffer and they must be able to be cured. But they can't always be cured. And so I think the answer to the question is we have to understand that all of us are going to die. And we must make a treasure of the moment of our death and our process of dying. We must not regard it so fearfully - and we must not regard it so fearfully for our friends and relatives. This is a part of life. And it's the ultimate experience of life. And we ought to feel better about it.







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