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Posted on June 26, 2019 at 10:41 AM
By Steve Phillips

This past week I attended the CBHD summer conference. This
year’s theme was “Taking Care: Perspectives for the End of Life.” As usual, the
conference was filled with thought-provoking sessions and many good personal
interactions. While I have much to think about from many of the sessions the
one that impacted me the most was the concluding plenary session by John Kilner
titled “Dignity and Life on the Line: Ending Well.” This session impacted me in
a number of ways. Not the least was remembering how much Dr. Kilner has
impacted my life as I listened to him talk about the end of life from the
perspective of one going through his own end-of-life journey. It also came at a
significant time for me as my wife and I have been grieving the recent death of
her father.

However, even without those very personal things, what Dr.
Kilner had to say about the end of life was significant. He reminded us that
the dignity of human life that exists because every human being has been
created in the image of God applies as much or more at the end of life as any
other time. Since God has intended in our creation for us to be an internal
reflection of him, death is truly an enemy. However, death is an enemy that has
been defeated by Jesus in his resurrection. Our approach to death can be wrong
if we fail to recognize either of these things. If we do not recognize death as
an enemy, we may not pursue appropriate treatment, or we may pursue intentional
killing as a means of avoiding suffering. Either of those is wrong. We should
intend life and not death. If we fail to recognize that the enemy death has
been defeated, we may try to avoid death at all costs and pursue over treatment
that increases suffering because we have made life on this earth into an idol.

He also reminded us that the process of dying can include
things that are positive. All human life is worth living. The life that we are
living as we are in the process of dying can be of benefit to God, others, and
ourselves. As we in our weakness put our lives in God’s hands and allow his
body, the church, to care for us, we bring glory to God. We allow others to be
blessed by serving as they care for us. In the weakness of dying we can find
the hope and joy that come from God whose strength is manifested in us in our
weakness. I pray that when the time comes God will help me to end my life well
in this way. I also pray that I will be able to help others end their lives
well.

Thank you Dr. Kilner for all that I have learned from you by
your teaching, your encouragement, and the example of your life.

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