Jade Goody died early today, Mothering Sunday 2009. One of her last decisions was to be baptised, together with her two sons, Bobby and Freddy. She has prepared herself for death in a way that we rarely see these days, and I applaud her for it.
For all the advances in medical diagnosis and treatments, human beings still die. We may sometimes be able to prolong our lives, but we are not immortal. Sadly we are often unwilling to face this truth, and so do not prepare ourselves for death.
In past centuries, one of the roles of the church was to prepare people for a ‘good death’, but all we seem interested in these days is having a ‘good life’. In those days, people would pray that death would not come suddenly or unexpectedly, so that they could prepare for it.
In that time, they would make their peace with God, with their loved ones and neighbours, and prepare to meet with God. Bur even before that, they would live their lives in the knowledge that this life is, at least in part, a preparation of the life of the world to come.
And when that time came, they would hope that their family would be around them to share their final hours in this life, and commend them to God. In those days, a priest would often be called to pray with them as the end came near. In these more secular days, our society has found other ways of preparing for death, and people do not see the need to involved clergy. Interestingly, however, some of the ‘ancient’ ways of the church are being rediscovered, particularly the importance of making peace with others.
I am given hope by Jade Goody, who died peacefully in her sleep, surrounded by her family. My prayer for her is that she found that ‘good death’ for which she was seeking. In her recent marriage, and in her baptism, and in other ways, may she have found peace, and in the end, may she, with the faithful departed, rest in peace to rise in glory.