I completed the first read of Kathleen Dowling Singh’s The Grace in Dying—How We Are Transformed Spiritually as We Die (1998) and was touched by the Latin treatise Ars Moriendi (The Art of Dying) that she references.

Sixty years of horrific deaths caused by the Black Death in Europe led an anonymous Dominican friar to compose this treatise, the long form in 1410 and the short one in 1450. It offered a template within which to view the “the five attacks of the devil,” integral to the dying process. As harsh as this process was, its outcome was deemed good, safe. Loved ones also received instruction on caring for the dying, together with suitable prayers for their transition. The 1450 treatise also contained twelve woodcuts, easily committed to memory by the illiterate.

Dr. Singh posits a psychological dimension to these “five attacks,” articulated in the Chaos phase: the self’s scouring the mental ego of malignancies buried within the psyche. Her corresponding templates enlarge those of the medieval monk’s: Belief/impatience and irritability; Social Contract/greed and avarice; Ego Sant/pride; Philosopher Charlatan/ moroseness; Disillusionment/desperation and agonizing qualms of consciousness. Never have I seen such purification that bespeaks the mystery of our humanness and ultimate destiny. We are are in good hands.

Dr. Singh also affirms the safety in dying and concludes, “In splendor and peace, we remerge with the luminous Ground of Being from which we once emerged.”