The fact of death is the great mystery and the great truth that illuminates our lives. To face our own imminent death is to examine our lives with an urgency and honesty we may never have felt before.
A spiritual assessment is a helpful practice as we move close to dying. Such an assessment seems to arise naturally in the course of the profound psychological and spiritual transformations of dying. Since we all share the same human condition, many terminally ill people report asking themselves the same questions. These are many of the questions that those who have had a near-death experience report that they have been asked. They are questions that pierce through the frivolousness at the surface of life and confront us with the value and significance this precious gift of a human life offers.
It is not too late to take stock of our lives, even in the last weeks and days of terminal illness. And for those of us in the midst of life, in the apparent safety and security of our health, it is not too early. No matter how much time we have left to live, the answers to the following questions, voiced in the quiet honesty of our own hearts, provide direction to the rest of our living.
Who have I been all this time?
How have I used my gift of a human life?
What do I need to "clear up" or "let go of" in order to be more peaceful?
What gives my life meaning?
For what am I grateful?
What have I learned of truth and how truthfully have I learned to live?
What have I learned of love and how well have I learned to love?
What have I learned about tenderness, vulnerability, intimacy, and communion?
What have I learned about courage, strength, power, and faith?
What have I learned of the human condition and how great is my compassion?
How am I handling my suffering?
How can I best share what I've learned?
What helps me open my heart and empty my mind and experience the presence of Spirit?
What will give me strength as I die? What is my relationship with that which will give me strength as I die?
If I remembered that my breaths were numbered, what would be my relationship to this breath right now?
Who am I?
Kathleen Dowling Singh, Ph.D. is a former hospice worker, a transpersonal psychologist and the author of "The Grace in Dying: How We Are Transformed Spiritually As We Die" (HarperSanFrancisco, 1998). She lectures frequently on the spiritual dimensions of dying.
Copyright 2000, Educational Broadcasting Corporation/Public Affairs Television, Inc.