Anglican Samizdat

December 13, 2009

John Frederick R. I. P.

Filed under: Care for the elderly — David Jenkins @ 9:23 pm

I have written before about the travails of my father-in-law in the nursing home where he was living. Since then, the care has improved dramatically and the staff has been kind and supportive.

John died last Friday at about 3:45 p.m. The week before, children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren gathered in his room to say goodbye, sing Christmas carols to him and pray. It has been difficult to see a once strong, vigorous man who helped bring up three children, was an artist, built houses and owned businesses, reduced to a helpless shell – a victim of dementia and crippling arthritis.

Of the people I have seen die, I have been struck in every case by a sense of wrongness in it; it was not what our Creator originally intended and, although he has redeemed us and removed death’s sting through Christ’s atoning sacrifice and resurrection, the feeling of wrongness remains.

John had been sinking slowly for a long time and during his last 24 hours would take 3 deep breaths and then not breathe for about a minute; at 3:45 p.m. on December 11th he took his last 3 breaths. Although it is a sad time, it is also a happy time since he was a Christian and is now free of the worn out body that was causing him so much pain; in the resurrection he will have a new body that will not wear out.

Many of us wondered why he lingered on so long; did God have a purpose that we could not see? I fancy John might not have been willing to give in to the wrongness of death – as Dylan Thomas put it, he was raging against the dying of the light:

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.



  1. Thank you

    Comment by Share — December 13, 2009 @ 11:42 pm

  2. David,
    John has been in our prayers and has now gone home.
    May the Lord be with your family.

    Comment by Jim Muirhead — December 14, 2009 @ 12:22 am

  3. I love that poem. Will be praying for you all.

    Comment by Kate — December 14, 2009 @ 11:14 pm

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