22 September 2016, The Tablet

At the hour of our death

by Jonathan Riley-Smith


Before he died on 13 September after a long illness, a distinguished historian wrote this advice to others who are dying

Death is not only unavoidable but necessary; and how we die is, at least in part, determined by our choices. If, like me, you are faced by terminal illness, be thankful that you have not died suddenly. You may have been one of those who, in the belief that they would be spared suffering, wanted to pass away quickly and without warning. If so, you have been ignoring the effect that such an event would have had on your family, the chaos you would certainly have left behind and the burdensome and expensive work of tidying up that would have been imposed on others. You have been privileged and it is important that you should make use of this grace to set your affairs in order.

If you are, like me, a Christian, you have been given the opportunity to prepare yourself to meet your creator. Catholics have always prayed to be spared “a sudden and unprovided death”. Bear in mind that God has some purpose for you. Take full advantage of the sacraments. Establish a pattern of regular prayer, but do not give way to over-enthusiasm. It is better to begin modestly and to build further if you find it desirable.

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