Dying Alone

A number of years ago, I was watching the hospital drama House on TV. In the climactic scene of the episode, Dr. House informed a patient she was dying. In tears she wailed, “I don’t want to die alone.”

“We all die alone,” Dr. House quietly responded as he walked out the door.

In their efforts to protect the elderly and the sick from the current pandemic, hospitals and nursing homes have severely limited and, in many cases, completely forbidden visitors. It’s understandable. The COVID-19 virus is particularly dangerous for those with weak or compromised immune systems.

For the sick and elderly, social distancing is a matter of life and death.

An unintended consequence of such measures, however, is that people now have to face illnesses and even death without the presence and support of family and friends. Their loved ones have to helplessly wait by the phone, unable to see or encourage them during what for many are their last moments here on earth.

Every day, tens of thousands of people throughout the world who were never infected by the Coronavirus are being forced to die alone because of it.

But, as Dr. House so poignantly pointed out, we all die alone. When we are sick or dying, we take solace in having those we love nearby. But, honestly, what good do they do by being there? Unless one of them is a doctor or a nurse, they can’t help you get better. If you are dying, no one can. And they definitely can’t go with you when you die.

Humanly speaking, we all walk death’s journey alone.

No one suffered a more lonely death than Jesus. Sure, he was crucified with two other criminals. Numerous gawkers morbidly passed by hurling insults at him. His mother was there. Some of his friends watched from a distance.

Yet Jesus was utterly alone. What he suffered, he suffered alone. While he hung on that cross, even God the Father turned his back on him. That is the punishment of sin – the punishment we deserve for every careless action, every angry word and every ugly thought we have ever had. Alone, Jesus died our death. He was abandoned by God so we never would be.

You see, a Christian never dies alone. Jesus is there, as he always has been. He will never leave you or forsake you. When you die, he will walk beside you and lead you to the never ending hugs of heaven which he won for you.

In life and in death, you are never alone. Neither are your loved ones in the hospital or nursing home. Your grandma is not alone. Your son is not alone. Your brother is not alone. Their God and Savior will never leave their side.

Henry Lyte was an Anglican priest from the 19th Century. Due to a severe case of Tuberculosis which would eventually take his life, he was forced to step down from the ministry. On September 4, 1847, he preached his last sermon. That evening, he retired to his study and later emerged having written my favorite hymn of all time, “Abide with Me.”

In the final verse, Lyte wrote:

Hold thou thy cross before my closing eyes;
Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies.
Heaven’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.

(Christian Worship 588:7)

Two months later, Henry Lyte died. His final words were: “Peace! Joy!” Henry Lyte didn’t die alone.

No Christian ever does.

  15 comments for “Dying Alone

  1. Kim
    April 6, 2020 at 8:33 am

    This is so timely and so perfect. Great choice of hymn stanza to bring that point home. “…heavens morning breaks and earth’s vain shadows flee…” Yes, Lord, abide with me!

    • schroera
      April 6, 2020 at 12:54 pm

      Thank you, Kim!

  2. Kenneth McElveen
    April 6, 2020 at 8:40 am

    You touch a very current topic with so many shut in these days. Well written friend.

    • schroera
      April 6, 2020 at 12:54 pm

      Thanks, Kenneth!

  3. Lance Lindeman
    April 6, 2020 at 8:55 am

    When my mother died many years ago, I was reading a pamphlet on hospice care while in the hospital waiting room. I read that many times, people who are near death prepare themselves by trying to separate themselves from other human beings. The next day, visiting my mother she was in a wheelchair, I pulled her close to me to visit. She kept backing away from me. The Lord took her home a few days later.

    The Lord is truly preparing a place for us, even when we don’t always understand his ways.

    • schroera
      April 6, 2020 at 12:53 pm

      Thank you for sharing your experience, Lance!

      • Becky
        April 6, 2020 at 9:59 pm

        Working in a hospital I see this so much. Each distanced family makes me sad. As humans we want to be together, but this article reminded me its about knowing who’s waiting for us. It was the perfect article for me to read after work today. Thank you for this!

  4. Dodie Jones
    April 6, 2020 at 9:14 am

    Thank you for those peaceful words of comfort, Pastor.

    • schroera
      April 6, 2020 at 12:54 pm

      Thank you, Dodie! I hope you are doing well. Please let me know if you need anything.

  5. Ron Boehm
    April 6, 2020 at 9:35 am

    Amen——-So be it——Amen⛪️

    • schroera
      April 6, 2020 at 12:55 pm

      Thank you, Ron!

  6. Jan Nelson
    April 6, 2020 at 10:03 am

    Thank you. My favorite hymn also.

    • schroera
      April 6, 2020 at 12:55 pm

      You’re welcome, Jan! I can’t sing the hymn without crying, though.

  7. Jeff
    April 6, 2020 at 3:42 pm

    I am confused and, frankly, quite troubled by the sentiments expressed in this blog.

    So all the bedside visits you’ve made, the times you’ve held the hands of a dying Christian brother and sister and assured them of God’s forgiveness, or distributed Christ’s body and blood to them in remembrance of Christ’s redemption, was all really just a waste of your time because at the end of the day it’s just Christ and the Christian? So you’re ok with being told you’re not allowed to minister to that portion of your flock?

    If that be the case, we’ve learned that a lot of the time pastors have traditionally spent comforting and visiting their flock as they approached death’s doorstep can now be spent on other, more important tasks. I’m just not sure what those would be.

    • schroera
      April 6, 2020 at 4:31 pm

      Jeff, I apologize if I gave the impression. I believe that as a pastor we have the privilege and responsibility to comfort the sick and dying. What I am saying in this article is that when we can’t be there to comfort them (especially right now when it is impossible), they are not alone. Their Savior is with them.

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