What is the consolation of faith in the face of death?

Question: What is the consolation of faith in the face of death? The absence of faith?

 

Ira Byock: I don’t think you need to be religious to face the end of life well, but I do think that dying and death really uncovers the spiritual core of the human condition. I say that because it really unmasks our vulnerability and questions that I think have inherent current spiritual implications become quite concrete, not abstract to philosophical to people.

Where am I going next? What was this life all about, after all? What was my life about? Was I worthy, was I a good person? Those sorts of questions, which really are at the core of religions take on tangible meaning and implications for people. If you have answers for those questions, if people who do have a strong religious faith often find that it is a well of strength during these times. I often will interview people and just acknowledge to them that sometimes when I meet people who are seriously ill, they tell me that their illness has really shaken their faith in god or their confidence in the universe. Other people I meet tell me that the illness has actually strengthened their faith, and I ask, has either of those things happened for you? But you don’t have to have a religion to be spiritual. I met a guy not too long ago, I call him Mr. Grady. I met him in clinic, and he had an advanced illness, was probably had 6 weeks or so to live, and he was a crusty Vermont farmer. And I asked him, if he had a faith in, and what was that like for him? And he said, “Oh doctor no, none of that for me.”

I said ,”Well, Mr. Grady, do you have a sense of where we go after this life?” He said, “Yeah doctor, the worms go in, the worms go out.” And half expecting that, because of just his demeanor, I said, “So Mr. Grady, and where will the worms go in and out of your bones?” And he said, “Well doctor, we have a place in the farm up in [ph] Bedford, we Grady’s we have been buried there for years and my grand parents and their parents have been there, and I suspect that we’ll – my family will be there forever.”

Well, very interesting because Mr. Grady doesn’t go to church, believe in God, have a religion, and yet he has this visceral connection to the land and to a family that preceded him for generations, ancestors he never met, and for people who he will never meet in generations to come. If that connection isn’t spiritual, I are not sure what to call it. It’s larger than himself and endures into an open-ended future, and has inherent meaning for him. That really satisfies my definition of spiritual.

 

Recorded on: March 21, 2008

 

What is the consolation of faith in the face of death?

Yeet! As society changes, the dictionary gets weirder

English is a dynamic language, and this summer's new additions to dictionary.com tell us a lot about how we're living.

Pixabay via Pexels
Culture & Religion
  • The summer update to Dictionary.com added hundreds of new words and definitions.
  • Many of them are in areas related to justice, technology, and COVID-19.
  • The new slang terms will leave more than a few people confused.
Keep reading Show less

Immersive technology will revolutionize everything from theme parks to daily life

Virtual reality continues to blur the line between the physical and the digital, and it will change our lives forever.

nuclear_lily via Adobe Stock
Technology & Innovation
  • Extended reality technologies — which include virtual reality, augmented reality, and mixed reality — have long captivated the public imagination, but have yet to become mainstream.
  • Extended reality technologies are quickly becoming better and cheaper, suggesting they may soon become part of daily life.
  • Over the long term, these technologies may usher in the "mirror world" — a digital layer "map" that lies atop the physical world and enables us to interact with internet-based technologies more seamlessly than ever.
Keep reading Show less

What happens when someone falls into a black hole?

Reality is far stranger than fiction.

Credit: vchalup / Adobe Stock
13-8
  • Black holes are stranger than fiction, especially when we explore the weird effects of watching someone or something fall into one.
  • Rotating black holes may be traversable if the physics as we understand it holds.
  • To discuss the physics, we explore a fictional tale with a grand ending.
Keep reading Show less

How to reduce gun violence without taking people’s guns

Hospitals often deal with the aftermath of gun violence, but they can play a key role in preventing it.

Sponsored by Northwell Health
  • Approximately 41,000 people are killed each year due to gun violence. That's more lives lost to guns than to car accidents. So why do we devote more attention (and money) to car safety than we do gun safety?
  • As Northwell Health CEO Michael Dowling points out, the deaths are not the whole story. The physical, emotional, and psychological trauma reverberates through communities and the public at-large. "This is just not about guns," says Dowling," this is a serious public health issue and we've got to look at it that way.
  • Hospitals often deal with the aftermath of gun violence, but they can play a key role in preventing it. Medical staff are trained to assess health risk factors. Dowling argues that a similar approach is needed for guns. "We have to be much more holistic in our approach."

Keep reading Show less
Quantcast