The guest columnist in the Catholic Times discusses the play, "Killing Sisters," which tells the story, part documentary, of religious sisters who help patients die well, focusing on the hospice approach to death in Korea. Seeing the play made her uncomfortable, thinking about how most of us live our lives.
She thought of those who spend most of their time making money, yet without much thought of how it's to be spent. But when the end comes they often see their life differently and have remorse for the way they lived.
The hospice movement is intended to help those in their last days to face death in peace. And also to help their families accept the death of the loved one. In other countries 40 percent take advantage of hospice care; in Korea it is less than one percent.
She quotes Heidegger's "being-toward-death," as a way for us to be in the world and, guided by the awareness of death's on-going presence in life, to awaken to a more "authentic perception" of life. She feels that persons living today should have more of an experience of death than those in the past because of the many more deaths from accidents and from diseases such as cancer and AIDS. In the past, death was mostly associated with the old.
The play made her realize how oblivious we are of the death that awaits us, and also made her aware that many of us do not know who we are or how to live in a way that has value. We die without discovering who we are. At funerals we come face to face with death but usually deny or try not to think of death; this is not a healthy way to live. She quotes from Ecclesiastes (7:2): "It is better to go to the house of mourning than to the house of feasting." Not to reflect on this fact is to live like a fool. And from Hebrews (13:14): "For here we have no lasting city; we are seeking one which is to come." Every day, she says, we should have a thought about death and prepare for it.
Advent, she wants us to remember, was a period of waiting. We await Jesus liturgically, but we also become aware that there is an end to earthly life, and that there is a need to discover the real me, the whole me. That would be the best preparation for our last days on earth.