Thursday, 29 October 2015

A Happy Death

I have just started reading Abbot (of Worth) Christopher Jamison's Finding Happiness.

Although I have only read the introductory chapter, The History of Happiness, I am already finding it a rich read. The summary of the philosophy of happiness, finding the origins of monastic  happiness in Platonic Contemplation and Aristotelian Virtue, was a good starting point, but it was the section on A Happy Death that really gave me pause for thought.

Abbot Jamison starts by recalling the happy death of one of Worth's great monks, Fr Michael Smith. This clearly had a profound impact on the Abbot and the rest of the community. He then considers what might be the constituent elements of a happy death.
Apart from the usual features of daily care and nourishment, a happy death might involve: the absence of mind-numbing pain (but the total absence of pain is not essential), the absence of anger, either because it has been passed through to acceptance, or because it never occurred; a sense of communion with loved ones and with God. Ideally, it also involves a conscious awareness of what is happening, so that there can be a letting go - no greedy clinging or demanding things of others. It may include a grateful looking back at life and expressions of gratitude to loved ones.
Written for a secular world, it is perhaps unsurprising that he does not unpack the 'sense of communion with God', but I would certainly want to be in a State of Grace, and strengthened by the Sacraments.

However Abbot Jamison is surely right to insist on the importance of each of us giving serious thought to what would make our own deaths happy. For if we live our lives in a way that will lead to a happy death, then we are likely to lead happy, and blessed lives. 

No comments: