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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Questions on death's way

They challenge our beliefs about life and faith, yet end in mystery

Cancer was killing my mother, Lynore Greising Peick. It was sucking the life from her body and had stolen the power from her brain.

Five years ago as his mother, Lynore Greising Peick, lay dying, David Greising was responsible for making decisions about her care. The experience taught him about the meaning of life and the meaning of life with God.
When we spoke to her, she stared back with a wide grin—the same empty smile that we saw hundreds of times this spring in that haunting videotape of Terri Schiavo.

The right to life. The right to die. The right to privacy. The right to dignity. What’s right? What’s wrong? No one knows for certain. And the more certain people are, the more certain it is that they’re wrong.
I know, because I’ve been there.

Five years ago, as my mom lay dying, I was responsible for deciding just how gently—or not—she would go into her own good night. And living through that decision taught me plenty about the meaning of life and the meaning of life with God.

Mom had granted me her medical power of attorney back when she was still cogent. Back then, breast cancer had taken residence in her brain but not yet taken control. Mom was clear about what she wanted and what she didn’t want. She didn’t want to die in a nursing home. She wanted no heroic measures. She hoped to die in peace, in comfort, in her home.

It has become a truism, thanks to Schiavo, that people should have living wills. That by writing down their wishes, they will ease the burden of decisions for their loved ones. But words are never so inadequate as when life or death hangs on every syllable. The directives of a living will sound simple and straightforward on paper. But when the moment comes, the notions become incredibly complex.


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December issue

DECEMBER issue:

Advent: Waiting together

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