together again. Mr. Murphy had then made out his will, and

written final messages to his grown-up children. All of this

was terribly sad, because it was so hard to let go, but they

carried on, as Mr. Murphy wanted to end his life well.

Sister Brigid told me that for the next three weeks Mr.

Murphy lived, the couple radiated peace and a simple, wonderful

feeling of love. Even after her husband died, Mrs.

Murphy continued to visit patients at the hospice, where she

was an inspiration to everyone.

This story shows to me the importance of telling people

early that they are going to die, and also the great advantage

of facing squarely the pain of loss. The Murphys knew that

they were going to lose many things, but by facing those

losses and grieving together, they found what they could not

lose, the deep love between them that would remain after Mr.

Murphy's death.


I am sure one of the things that helped Mrs. Murphy help

her husband was that she faced within herself her own fears

of dying. You cannot help the dying until you have acknowledged

how their fear of dying disturbs you and brings up your

most uncomfortable fears. Working with the dying is like facing

a polished and fierce mirror of your own reality. You see

in it the stark face of your own panic and of your terror of

pain. If you don't look at and accept that face of panic and

fear in yourself, how will you be able to bear it in the person

in front of you? When you come to try and help the dying,

you will need to examine your every reaction, since your reactions

will be reflected in those of the person dying and will

contribute a great deal to their help or detriment.

Looking at your fears honestly will also help you in your

own journey to maturity. Sometimes I think there could be no

more effective way of speeding up our growth as human

beings than working with the dying. Caring for the dying is

itself a deep contemplation and reflection on your own death.

It is a way to face and work with it. When you work with

the dying, you can come to a kind of resolution, a clear understanding

of what is the most important focus of life. To learn

really to help those who are dying is to begin to become fearless

and responsible about our own dying, and to find in ourselves

the beginnings of an unbounded compassion that we

may never have suspected.

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