28 n March / April 2014 n www.faith Today.ca
around the bed and sing Kumbayah.”
But it doesn’t always work out that way.
Death is death, and dying can be painful.
Says Shields, “There’s a profound sadness
when people die, and it doesn’t matter if
they’re 100 or 50 [years old].”
It’s an often-cited fact that psychologic-
al pain at the end of life can be just as great
– or greater – than any physical pain. And
sometimes, Shields says, people need help
getting over their anger.
Vera Kuranji has helped many people
get over that kind of anger at the end of life.
A Canadian citizen born in Serbia, she returned there in the early ’90s with her husband as missionaries sent by the Christian
& Missionary Alliance in Canada.
Eight years ago she felt compelled to
launch a hospice ministry. In a country
with poor publicly funded health care and
poverty-level pensions, a terminal illness
can devastate a family. “The needs are so
great,” says Kuranji. “Dying can become a
very lonely, lonely place.”
Each day she visits from four to five
families, offering friendship, sharing
spiritual hope, and addressing practical
needs. “Some people need wheelchairs or
crutches. Some need diapers or medicine
or hygiene items.” Funded entirely by indi-
viduals who have heard about her efforts
and believe in what she is doing, Kuranji’s
hospice ministry has cared for 2,000 dying
people and their families to date.
Whether here in Canada or around the
globe, in hospitals and hospices, long-term
care facilities and private homes, Canadian
Christian nurses and doctors, orderlies and
housekeepers, pastors and parishioners, social workers and psychologists, friends and
family members who are motivated by their
faith in Christ bring comfort to the dying.
Why? Perhaps it’s because believers
hold the conviction that this life is not our
own. As God’s gift we acknowledge life
is sacred, so sacred that even waning life
has value and ought to be honoured and
protected. That does not mean it must be
artificially prolonged. But neither should it
be artificially hastened.
i’ll forever be grateful for the privilege of
helping to care for my father during his
last days. As his life ebbed, he continued
love for his family,
and to receive the
love we offered
through our care.
That exchange of
love was a final,
precious and intimate gift.
And when he
died, we found solace knowing that
we would see him
again, and that we
had eased his final
journey. In blessing
my father, we had been blessed.
I learned recently that the blessing extended beyond our family. When I spoke
to Dr. Mielke for the first time since my
father died, she shared that that day remains etched on her memory too. “And
that’s not the norm for me,” she said.
“That afternoon … it was a busy day.
It was one of those days that you’re fully
booked, and you have no time, and the
waiting room is full, and you’re just hoping
you can get home for dinner,” she recalled.
“In the middle of that, there’s a call that
someone has passed away, and of course
you have to go and pronounce them. At
that point, you stop and think, OK, how
am I going to manage the rest of my day?
“My staff is good about rebooking
things,” she said, “but what they can’t
manage is [the turmoil that’s] happening
inside of me.”
Arriving at my parents’ home, she described being struck by the contrast between her own thoughts and the scene that
greeted her. “You were all so relaxed,” she
said. “You were sitting around. You were
thankful. There was a sense of rightness.
There was a sense of gratitude. There was
a sense of ‘this is ok,’ rather than anger
or fear, which is what we see a lot of the
time.” At this, Dr. Mielke paused, remembering.
Then she added softly, “That honestly
ministered to me.”
Sometimes, it seems, God can use min-
istry to the dying to minister to the living
as well. FT
pa Tricia paDDEY is a senior writer
for Faith Today
“a designation of
‘palliative’ opens the
doors for more care,”
says Dr. cornelia