“It is appointed unto man once to die…”

Monday, 05 Mar 2012 13:55

About Dr. Monica Williams-Murphy (120 Posts)

Dr. Monica Williams-Murphy is a Board Certified Emergency Medicine Physician, who practices in one of the largest emergency departments in the United States at Huntsville Hospital. Through her writing and speaking, she is devoted to transforming the end of life into a time of peace, closure and healing. Media Page

This past week a lovely 80 year-old lady came in to the ER with her husband who was himself a Christian minister. My patient, the wife, came in for fatigue and a variety of other symptoms. As we chatted she raised her eyebrows and smilingly said, “I really didn’t want to come in. I just thought all of this was old age. I’m 80 you know and we don’t live forever.”

I smiled back, “You are very wise, but there are still some things that we could find today that we could treat, which would help give you better quality of life. You are right that we don’t live forever, but we can help you feel the best you can for as long as you can.”

We then had a long talk about quality of life, death and the limitations of modern science. They had a take on the end-of-life which is unusual for modern Americans. This was part of our conversation:

While holding her hand, my patient’s husband explained, “We are different than most people, Doctor. We believe that dying is an important part of living,” he paused, “we even think that death should be celebrated.” Looking at his wife, they both chuckled, “Most people might think we are a bit strange in that regard.”

I interrupted, “Well, I don’t think you are strange at all, if anything I find this all very refreshing. Most Americans regard death only in negative terms, yet from a religious perspective, all religions speak of death as a holy moment and the Bible even explains that ‘the day of death (is better) than the day of one’s birth.’” (Ecclesiastes 7:1)

Being a Christian minister, he deftly quoted more scripture, “Yes, and Paul reminds us in Hebrews (9:27) that it is appointed unto men once to die…so you see, it is part of God’s plan…and if it is His plan, then it must be a good one.”

We all smiled and nodded our heads. It was clear that we were each “preaching to the choir” to borrow from old gospel terminology. We agreed that if other ‘believers’ shared this perspective, that Americans (and for that matter, the World) could experience a transformation in how we approach, explore, and manage the end of life. Like my patient and her husband, dying could become viewed as “an important part of living” and could even “be celebrated.” This can all be managed very well with the help of modern medical science—we have the capacity to magnify quality of life, even when quantity of time is limited. The Palliative Care and Hospice professionals are already experts in this type of endeavor. Now it’s time for the rest of society to catch up and catch on.

Below is an excerpt ‘for believers’ from Chapter 16 of It’s OK to Die, titled Dying for the Believer and the Non-Believer: Making Peace Regardless of Perspective


For Believers

For believers, death may be viewed as a holy moment by those who see it as a passage to another type of life. Samples of holy writ from some of the great world religions affirm this belief that a “core” of us survives physical death.



“Then shall the dust (physical body) return to the earth as it was; and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.”

— The Holy Bible, Ecclesiastes 12:7

“…the day of death (is better) than the day of one’s birth.”

— The Holy Bible, Ecclesiastes 7:1



“To Him will be your return—of all of you. The promise of Allah is true and sure.”

— The Holy Qur’an, 10:4



“The Spirit that is in all beings is immortal in them all: for the death of what cannot die, cease thou to sorrow.”

— The Bhagavad-Gita, 2:30



“So, just as a traveler who sets out on the road when the time has come to go, I will not remain in this world any longer, but will go to dwell in the stronghold of the great bliss of deathlessness.”

— The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying



“The soul, after its separation from the body, will continue to progress until it attaineth the presence of God, in a state and condition which neither the revolution of ages and centuries, nor the changes and chances of this world, can alter.”

— Reflections on the Life of the Spirit by Baha’u’llah



“Birth is not a beginning; death is not an end. There is existence without limitation; there is continuity without a starting point.”

— Chuang Tzu


(Excerpt reprinted with permission of MKN, LLC. All references are available as End Notes– It’s OK to Die.COPYRIGHT © 2011 Monica Williams-Murphy and Kristian A. Murphy / MKN, LLC – All rights reserved. )

Our Book: It's OK to Die

"It's OK to Die" is a ground-breaking book filled with graphic stories straight out of the Emergency Room illustrating how most Americans are completely unprepared for death and dying. In response, the authors have created a unique and comprehensive guide urging EVERYONE to prepare in advance, to assure their own peace and to prevent the suffering of their loved ones.
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