While training for ministry, I had an ideal view of what I would be doing in ministry. If someone had asked me what I was most looking forward to, I would probably have said something about education, leading worship or ministering to young people. That all seems such a long time ago now. It was only five years ago! A lot has changed in my life and my experience of being in ministry has changed my views on what is important.
Today I was called to be with an elderly woman as she was dying. What a privilege! To be with someone as they approach the end of their earthy life is such a sacred place. People often ask me how I find dealing with this part of my ministry. I would be lying if I said it was easy - it is never easy. Sometimes people are in pain, sometimes they are afraid and sometimes they are very peaceful. Sitting by the death bed is a liminal space - a space of inbetweens. It is the place where life and death meet. It can be said that the curtain or the veil is very thin in this space. There is a mystery, an unknown, in this place.
I now find that being with people at the time of death is one of the most enjoyable parts of my ministry. It is enjoyable in the sense that the presence of God is very real and tangible. People are open to talking about all things spiritual and their true understandings and beliefs are revealed. Death is a normal part of life, but our Western culture has tended to sanitize it and leave it to the professionals.
I used to think that the point of death would be the most difficult place to minister. I have found, however, it is often one of the easiest. Often people are not expecting fancy prayers or rituals. They need a hand to hold, a comforting presence or a soothing word of peace. I just need to be there. That is all. I leave the rest to God and so far I have not been let down.