An Encouraging Word – A good death

Father J. Ronald Knott
Father J. Ronald Knott

Oh, death, where is your sting? I Corinthians 15:55

After doing funerals for 45 years, anointing people in numerous hospitals and nursing homes and reaching age 71, the realization that death is not just for other people, but also for me, is beginning to sink in.

I don’t sit around thinking about it much, but every once in a while something happens to force it into my consciousness.

As I write this column, I am aware of a wonderful program I saw on KET’s FRONTLINE on the relationship of doctors and patients nearing end of life.

It didn’t help that it aired the night before I had to go for my routine blood clot check-up at the oncology department of Audubon Hospital.

No, I do not have cancer, but my hematologist is located there.

I guess seeing all those in the waiting room who are fighting cancer, and remembering my own mother’s death from breast cancer, made me a bit sensitive.

As I was waiting for the doctor, I noticed that the clock on the wall had stopped at 3:15, even though it was only 10:45 in the morning. The second hand was still going around and around as if oblivious that the other hands had stopped some time ago.

It occurred to me as I stared at it, that clock was a symbol of our lives.

Someday, we will die and the rest of the world will just keep on going with their lives, in spite of the fact that ours has stopped.

What I liked about the KET program, called “Being Mortal,” was the way the patients, after being told the truth about their situations, were able to face their deaths and even help the doctors help them by being able to state what their priorities were for the rest of their time, what their fears were, and where they wanted to spend their remaining time.

It was beautiful, actually, and made me hope that I will be able to do the same if it comes to that.

I do have funeral plans, a living will, an in-home care policy and, as a former employee, a free casket from Saint Meinrad Archabbey.

But it made me think about what my own priorities and fears would be, and where I would want to spend my remaining days.

I am sure this column is spooking some of my readers, but I do not want to be part of those who obsess about death nor those who are scared to talk about it. I want to live long and die well with as much space in between as possible.

I dread pain and noise most of all.

Because I have lived alone so long and love quiet, I would like to die in my condo with someone downstairs who can welcome family and guests, keep house for me, see that I am as comfortable as possible, make sure the drugs keep coming and, yes, hire some convincing professional mourners.

Father J. Ronald Knott

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