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Sunday, January 18, 2009

Mrs. Hunter's Happy Death, part 2

J. Wood's account of her life and death makes clear that Mrs. Hunter did not so much "study" the Bible. Rather she partook of it, she savored it, and she ingested it, as if it were food and promised nourishment she could find nowhere else. . . . Her deep and abiding concern was how she herself could get on those pagers, how she could make the story of her own life conform to the stories she encountered there. (p. 133)

In my experience, people die the way they live. There are exceptions, of course . . . But most people's dying words -- the words of their final days and weeks and months -- have been bred into them by years and years of practice and repetition. (p. 141. Quotes from Mrs. Hunter's Happy Death: Lessons on Living from People Preparing to Die. New York: Doubleday, 2006, by John Fanestil. The book has its own web site.

Fanestil deals with Kübler-Ross's concept of the stages of dying. But, he says, her scheme is based on fear and denial of death, which is not the way everyone approaches that last transition. Specifically, Mrs. Hunter did not, and we shouldn't. (176-7)

Fanestil, quoting one of his own sermons, delivered in a home for the aged and infirm, points out that almost anyone with any mental capacity at all can believe, and think about, and act like the two main commandments given by Christ: love God, and love your neighbor. (182)

Fanestil and his father went to England, and tried to find out more about Mrs. Hunter. Apparently she was pretty well off, and it is likely that one of her siblings knew John Wesley well. (Possibly Mrs. Hunter did, too.) Wesley said "our people die well." Evidently they did. They died well because they lived well -- they lived holy lives dedicated to a relationship with God. Fanestil is not the only author to research this topic, but he is probably the first to concentrate on Mrs. Hunter.

The first part of this two-part series is here.

Thanks for reading. Read Fanestil.

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