Finding new hope in dying


For those of us who are thriving in this world, hope includes anticipation of health and strength.  Restoration and healing are expected.  This hope has kept most of us alive at times when facing illness, waiting for the natural processes, the medication, the surgery or other treatment to provide a cure.

It’s life-giving when we can look forward to getting outside again, being with friends and doing the things we enjoy.  Hope sustains us and those who hope with us for better days.  When our strength begins to return, we light up with plans for a vacation or activity that we’ve not been able to do while recovering from an illness or accident.

But what happens to hope when the doctor shares test results indicating that healing and recovery is not expected?  Holding onto unrealistic hope can be discouraging when there’s no positive change over time.  But we know that miracles can happen.  We’ve heard the stories of unexpected healing and are tempted to hold onto hope for a fullness of life to return.

The big choice we face is never between hope and no hope, but between different objects and sources of hope.  When dying becomes an undeniable reality, hope can grow strong. The focus of our hope changes to that which is more permanent in life, eternal.  When we can no longer hope in good faith for a new lease of life on this earth, we can grasp the promises given for a life beyond what we have sought here.

We can hold onto that which we have only heard about, but not yet experienced.  This can be a hope that doesn’t disappoint because it doesn’t depend on evidence of well-being here in this world.  If we can look toward a Person and Place greater than ourselves, beyond the experts, medical solutions, and the good wishes of our friends and family, we may find a source and object of hope that carries us through the dying process.

Waiting need not be filled with dread and fear or hopelessness and helplessness when our hopes are set higher than ever before.  Instead, when that happens hope can become infectious among those who wait with us.  Our goals and dreams will change and become the assurance that allows us to rest with confidence.  It also allows those who wait with us to rest, and to strengthen their own hope.

What do you hope for today that is new, or that you hope for in a new way?  How can you share that hope with those you love and see that hope fulfilled together? Let us know in a comment.

Ron King, D.Min., LMFT

Ron King, D.Min., LMFT

Hospice Chaplain

Ron has been involved in ministry to people for more than 30 years. As a chaplain with Holy Redeemer Hospice, he hears the life stories of patients daily and faces end-of-life challenges with each one. Along with being a member of the ethics committee, regularly presiding at memorial services and teaching hospice professionals, his primary joy comes in seeing the lessons of life revealed in so many lives rich with memories and questions.

Part of the perspective he brings to the hospice experience is placing this life event in the context of an entire life and generation of family history. As a chaplain, Ron works from a strong belief that the spiritual dynamics create a sacred space for hope and personal growth until the last breath and beyond, for both patients and caregivers.  Honoring each individual path toward the end of life, he believes the work caregivers do and the reward they receive is more than physical. As a hospice chaplain, he considers himself a companion on that path.

On his own life’s path, Ron has been the clinical director of a residential addiction center, a community restorative justice organization, and pastoral staff. In addition to his work with hospice patients, Ron is a licensed marriage and family therapist working with families at all stages of the life cycle. This particular practice is enhanced by his own experience of nearly four decades of marriage, two daughters, and four grandchildren.
Ron King, D.Min., LMFT

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2 Responses to “Finding new hope in dying”

  1. Dr. Ron

    You’re so right, Stephanie, about the value of a joy that isn’t fixed upon our own demands or preferences, but is able to reach toward the great Unknown that is greater than us and holds us.

    The confidence of your grandfather became a source of solid hope for your family that helped bring into reality the things he sought and believed. When we’re able to hope in a love that continues beyond the grave, we may find even more than we expect.

    I’m convinced that some patients who have found peace in hoping for a better life without defining what shape that life must take sometimes find healing and lengthen their life on earth.

    You are blessed to have your grandfather’s example as he was able to show you the way forward regardless of circumstances. Thanks for sharing his story.

  2. Stephanie

    I very much appreciate question asked about what we can do when it seems like there is no hope. I am doing part of my social work internship on an oncology floor of our hospital. Some days it seems as if we crush families and patients’ hope by talking about the inevitable palliative care, comfort measures, or hospice when it seems like the patient may have no other options left. However, I have noticed a difference in the patients who continued to have hope and chage their hopes compared to the patients who gave up and had no hope at all or tried to fight fate. I learned that it is about looking at that hope with a new lens. The patient’s initial hope of living two more years can morph into the hope of dying comfortably or the hope of saying goodbye to a loved one before passing. There is almost a new way of hoping or a redirection of hope.

    I have seen in my own grandfather how this hope can be so healthy. Even though my grandfather was in pain and eventually went on hospice, he tried to smile every day and let people know that he loved them. That hope that he had of passing away peacefully was so infectious. No one worried about his passing or if he was comfortable, they just focused on being together as a family and joining in his high spirits and hope for the unknown journey that was ahead of him. Instead of having high expectations for his health or that his cancer would be cured, we held onto the hope that he was able to obtain all the promises he had heard of in his life to come. It was freeing for both my grandfather and my family to have hope in the things that seemed obtainable; hope that he would feel no pain, hope that he would be with my grandmother again, and hope that he would leave this world happy. It was so much easier to hope for things as goals changed than to try to change what was happening to fit our goals.


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