Magazine article Anglican Journal

Let's Talk about Death

Magazine article Anglican Journal

Let's Talk about Death

Article excerpt

WE ARE, on a daily basis, confronted with images of death: we see it in the news and on social media, on TV shows, movies and video games. We routinely hear about life-threatening diseases, mass shootings, massacres and disasters, and we witness public displays of grief and despair even from faraway places. There's no escaping the shadow of the Grim Reaper--it is streamed 24/7 on just about every device imaginable these days.

And yet, for all its ubiquity and inevitability, most of us avoid talking about death, especially when it involves ourselves, and our loved ones. The Christian faith offers a message of hope about living well and dying well, but it is missing in the public sphere.

Only about 15 per cent of Canadians have discussed end-of-life care and funeral wishes, according to the Canadian Medical Association (CMA).

Why is death shrouded in so much silence and fear when it used to be something so real and natural? In the years 1900 to 1950, most Canadians died at home; the community assisted the family in attending to the dying and participated in rituals rooted in one's cultural and religious background, according to Death, Dying and Canadian Families, a study by The Vanier Institute of Family.

Things shifted during the postwar years, when both birth and death took place largely in hospitals. Death came to be seen as a medical failure, notes the study, and "once all curative measures had failed, the dying person in the hospital was often left alone, their care left to nurses who were neither trained nor equipped to care for the dying." Death became an individual and family affair that often excluded children. Today, nearly 70 per cent of Canadians die in hospitals.

Change may be afoot. Death and dying are hitting closer to home. The population is aging, but life expectancy is also rising. By 2041, seniors will comprise nearly a quarter of the Canadian population, compared to 14.8 per cent today.

Quebec's approval in June of medical aid-in-dying legislation, recent high-profile suicides of terminally ill patients and the Supreme Court of Canada's review of existing laws prohibiting medically assisted death have forced Canadians to confront their own views about ending one's life. …

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