When someone we know is nearing death, how do we help them die with dignity? How do we help the family navigate the medical desire to preserve life at all cost? How can we prepare to die with dignity?
The preparation to die well begins at birth and is manifest through the development of our faith. There are many who have passed relatively early in their mortal state who have been much more accepting of and prepared to enter the next phase of our progression than some who have left this existence at what may seem as the appropriate time of life. When the full purpose of mortal life is understood, and we have acted in accordance to that knowledge, then we can pass with confidence knowing what awaits us. Scriptures teach of such a plan that is often referred to as The Plan of Happiness.
The story begins even earlier than we might think, a time when we lived as spirit children in God’s presence before we came to this earth. We were His spirit off spring, we were there as Christ presented His plan to the Father and we were valiant and accepted that plan to come to earth and receive a body.
One of the main purposes of our mortal life is to gain experience that is only available with a physical body and to navigate through life showing our Father and Elder Brother, Jesus Christ, that we are willing to follow them; even when life’s obstacles are seemingly overwhelming. As we develop our faith, repent of our sins, and follow them; we are preparing ourselves for the continuation of our existence. Keeping the two great commandments, loving God with all our heart and our fellowman as ourselves, helps us to develop from someone who is centered on our own well being, and instead to turn our attention outward to others. By doing this, we put off the natural man and become more Christ like. As our attention turns from self and we truly lose ourselves in the service of others, we come closer to experiencing a fullness of life. The prophet Nephi, in the Book of Mormon, stated “Man is that he might have joy”.
When we come to experience true joy, putting God and others ahead of our own personal needs we are becoming the kind of individual that He desires that we become. As we come to know God, we look forward with great anticipation to the day that body and spirit are reunited after death rather than with fear and trembling.
Dying with dignity means that we have lived a life filed with purpose; we recognize that there is a definitive purpose for our mortal existence and we have used the time allotted to us to bless others. We have left our part of the world better because of efforts in mortality and when we leave, we may leave with no regrets.