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Faith Comment published in the Petersfield Post

28 October 2015: Rev’d Sylvia Roberts, St Peter’s Church

A good death?

When I was newly ordained I was told by a venerable senior colleague that the most important role of a priest is to assist people towards a good death. At the time I was taken aback feeling that the phrase seemed like a contradiction in terms but the comment has stayed with me and I have come to see that planning for “a good death” encourages living a full life. It is not a morbid or macabre occupation but rather one which helps to focus on the things that are really important to us.

For my colleague a good death meant facing death fully prepared, with all one’s affairs in order, with one’s sins forgiven in this life and with the assurance of life with God awaiting. That is the Christian hope but it is not the lot of everyone to come to death like this. There are those without faith or hope and those who have made no preparation or even thought or spoken about their own death as if it will never happen instead of being something that will certainly happen.

Death is the last great taboo but there are now an increasing number of movements and organisations trying to break that taboo and create places and spaces where people can talk about death - and their own death in particular. The hope is that by being able to talk in a relaxed way and speak about the unspeakable we can not only make it easier for those left behind to cope but also face death ourselves with more serenity. In different parts of the country Death Cafes now exist – places where over tea and cakes every aspect of death can be explored. Maybe we should plan for one locally?

There will be a Taize-style service at St Laurence on Sunday 1 November to raise awareness and funds for The Medaille Trust

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