Care for the Dying and the Bereaved
A.J. Pell is editor of the Canadian Evangelical Review and an instructor
of Liturgy, Anglican Studies Program, Regent College, Vancouver.
Since the 1970s, death has become a major concern — sometimes bordering upon an obsession — in North American society. The research of Elizabeth Kubler-Ross in the United States and the palliative care work of Balfour Mount in Montreal have become common knowledge to most Canadians. The Anglican Church of Canada has provided a significant contribution to the ongoing discussion, first through the report Dying: Considerations Concerning the Passage from Life to Death in 1980 and now through this collection of reports and essays edited by Ian Gentles, associate professor of history at York University, Toronto.
The contents of this volume range from clinical reports to theological essays and cover a broad range of concerns. The first seven papers are “practical,” dealing with such varied matters as relieving pain for the dying, being a supportive friend to the dying and bereaved, and dealing with the death of children. To most members of our “liberal” society, Mary Lassance Parthun’s discussion of post-abortion grief by the women involved will be a thought-provoking shock. The remaining three essays are termed “theoretical” by the editor and deal with a history of the treatment of death in western civilization, a discussion of euthanasia, and a Christian theological approach to dying. Here Sheila and George Grant’s paper on euthanasia is profoundly disturbing, for it points out how careless sentimentalism can easily lead to a de-humanized society.
This volume will be of interest to many different groups of people. Medical personnel, clergy, and social workers will benefit from the opportunity to reflect upon their work. Students in “the helping professions” will find it to be one of the best available introductions to death and dying. General readers will benefit from the clear, non-technical writing, particularly the descriptions of the actual moment of death, which would help many people overcome their terrifying fantasies about their own deaths. This book is worth reading and pondering more than once.