Twenty-one years ago, I bought a significant book that survived many thinnings of my bookshelves. The material stunned me, evidenced by my highlighting large sections, so much so that I modified my role as chaplain to hospice patients. On a hunch, I sensed that I would need this book later and stashed it away in my study. That time has come. I read this book differently, now that I’m participating in hospice. Other sections are now highlighted.

 The Grace in Dying – How We Are Transformed Spiritually As We Die (1998) contains the twenty-year findings of Kathleen Dowling Singh, PhD, as she sat by the bedsides of hospice patients in Florida and listened and loved and remembered. A scholarly book, it concludes with appendices, glossary, notes, bibliography, and an index.

Singh references Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’s five stages in dying: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance—all psychological reactions to the body’s dying. Through the lens of transpersonal psychology, Singh delves into the psychospiritual transformation of hospice patients. It’s precisely this material that sets me a quivering, that teases my tears. That this will be my experience?

True, hospice’s role in easing patients’ intractable symptoms, often associated with the dying process, is well placed. But much more occurs with the breakdown of the body. Singh incorporates Kubler-Ross’s five stages within the phase of Turbulence or Chaos; to this, she adds Alienation, Anxiety, Despair, “Letting Go,” and Dread of Engulfment. Such phases, though, have no orderly progression—like “…a raging fire fueled by fear.” Surrender follows, and with it, the Nearing Death Experience and Transcendence, the remerging with the Ground of Being from which we came.

I plan to include more of Singh’s insights in subsequent blogs.