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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.”

 

 

In the shadow of your wings, I will sing your praises, O Lord. Psalm 63:10

 

 

 

How do I give expression to my shrinking world? Wrap words around this indisputable phenomenon to which I awake each morning, unless graced by a dream that enlarges the sense of who I am? Clearly, I have no control over this process, other than to show up and participate.

My limits are real: shortness of breath, weakness, fatigue. No pain. More body awareness is critical lest I fall, and my hardwood floors are very hard—That, I’ve already experienced, years ago.

Yet each day’s tasks, whether self-care, meal preparation, stretching and breathing exercises, blogging, study, phone visits and those from the hospice team suffuse more-than-full-moments with joy. At day’s end, it’s a relief to climb under my comforter and give thanks to Creator God for what I’ve learned and ask for dreams upon awakening.

Besides the guidance of dreams, I also depend upon excerpts from The Grace in DyingHow We Are Transformed Spiritually as We Die (1988) written by Catherine Dowling Singh, PhD in Transpersonal Psychology. Twenty years of participating in what she calls the Nearing Death Experience of hospice patients illumine her findings of breathtaking spiritual growth. True, their bodies fail them, but only to release their spirits to remerge with the Ground of Being. Such reflection heartens me, and what I’m dealing with will eventually pass.

More and more, I resonate with the author’s conviction that dying is safe. My hospice team will share their expertise when the time comes, but I’m not there yet. There’s still much to learn and I’m so willing …

 

 

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