What is the Rest That Jesus Gives? (Continued)

 

In my last blog I said I was working on two problems.  My first problem was to determine what Jesus meant about the rest he invites is to, and second, how his words related to the words of the apostle Paul.  Solving these two problems could lead to the beginning of a theology of rest.

Our pastor challenged us with two passages of scripture.  The first passage is Matthew 11:28-30 (Contemporary English Version):

If you are tired from carrying heavy burdens, come to me and I will give you rest. Take the yoke I give you. Put it on your shoulders and learn from me. I am gentle and humble, and you will find rest.  This yoke is easy to bear, and this burden is light.

The key words in this translation from the Greek are heavy (to weigh down, carry a heavy load), burdens (weary, work related fatigue), and rest (a temporary cessation of labor, motion).

Jesus can give this invitation because he took time to be alone with God in order to find the help and comfort he needed. The invitation is to those who are carrying heavy emotional and physical burdens.

A yoke is for two animals and Jesus uses that as a metaphor for our relationship with him.  Jesus is already there “in-yoked,” and asks us to join him in the yoke.  Jesus is then alongside us to give respite from our emotional, physical, and spiritual fatigue.

The metaphor of coming alongside is how Jesus describes the work of the Holy Spirit in John 14 and 15.  The Spirit comes alongside us as an intercessor, consoler, advocate, and/or comforter.

This is also the idea in the second passage, 2 Corinthians 1:3-7 (Contemporary English Version):

Praise God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! The Father is a merciful God, who always gives us comfort.  He comforts us when we are in trouble, so that we can share that same comfort with others in trouble.  We share in the terrible sufferings of Christ, but also in the wonderful comfort he gives. We suffer in the hope that you will be comforted and saved. And because we are comforted, you will also be comforted, as you patiently endure suffering like ours. You never disappoint us. You suffered as much as we did, and we know that you will be comforted as we were.

The key words in this translation from the Greek are comfort (solace, consolation), trouble (tribulations, pressures), afflict/afflictions (sufferings as an enduring inward state), and terrible (to be in excess).

We praise God the Father, for he is the source of all help, and through his mercy we are provided with what we need.  We have pressures in our service to God and in our daily living that threaten our inmost being.  God is our source for help and comfort.

The emotional and physical sufferings Jesus suffered were excessive compared to ours, but were endured in order for him to help those in need. He knows and understands what we experience.  Now, he comes alongside us in our troubles to bring help and comfort.

I think we can learn both from the practice of Jesus and these two passages of scripture that the pressures of job, marriage, parenting, and just plain living can sometimes threaten our being.  We find ourselves drained emotionally and physically.  This is a given: we cannot avoid life pressures

The rest Jesus gives is not a retreat or an avoidance of the pressures of living.  The rest that Jesus gives is endurance (v. 6).  To endure means not to be swerved from a deliberate purpose.

By taking his yoke and learning of him, Jesus is alongside us and gives us strength for the endurance to go on living and helping others.  Just as God comforted Jesus in his troubles, Jesus comforts us in our troubles.  As we have found help and comfort in Christ, we share that solace, that peace with others.

 

 

 

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Do We Have a Dark Side?

When the first Star Wars movie came out, I stood in line to see it (or, stood in queue since I was in London), with my wife and two kids.  This movie, and its sequels, have plots pitting good guys against The Dark Side.  Those on The Dark Side are consumed by anger, hatred, cruelty, selfish ambition, and a lack of love for others.

To the general public, the idea of a dark side of human personality may be relegated to the imagination of science fiction writers and not real life.  People go to costume parties dressed as Darth Vader, with no serious thought about what Vader represents.  The British rock band, Muse, released an album in September 2018 with a song titled The Dark Side, the idea taken from the movies.   The theme of the words is simple:  I am in pain and depressed, set me free.  Taken seriously, the dark side of Star Wars is an enslaving power of evil and not something entertaining or transitory.

Do we have a dark side, or is it just sci-f?  A recent edition of Scientific American has an article about the work of three European scientists. They have discovered a common core of nine dark traits they call the Dark Factor of Personality.  This is ethically, morally and socially questionable behavior and attitudes, accompanied by beliefs that justify the behavior and attitudes.  The traits are egoism, Machiavellianism, moral disengagement, narcissism, psychological entitlement, psychopathy, sadism, self-interest, and spitefulness. They have also developed a self-assessed Dark Care Scale that can be used to discover the degree to which a person is influenced by the dark side of their personality.

The idea of dark traits is nothing new for the Christian.  The Judeo-Christian tradition has always recognized the dark side of human nature starting with the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. The potential for human freedom is always threatened by the potential for evil.  We desire complete liberty of thought and behavior without regard for anything and/or anyone else.  Like Adam and Eve, we want to become like God.  History and literature give us many examples of people who lost this battle with the dark side as did Adam and Eve.  In biblical literature, Samson, Saul, and David immediately come to mind. Literary examples come to mind, such as Shakespeare’s Othello and Hamlet as well as Stevenson’s story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

Psychiatrist Carl Jung wrote about the shadow side of personality a hundred years ago. For him, the shadow is the dark side of personality, everything we have rejected, despised, denied, or never knew was there.  The fact that we are unaware of our shadow is the problem, for it is involved in everything we say or do.  Because of our desires, we wrestle against an unknown entity, our shadow. The Bible calls this iniquity, meaning crooked thinking: putting high value on the least valuable and struggling to know the difference.

In his book, Makers of the Lie, psychiatrist Scott Peck gives patient anecdotes of behavior that on the surface would seem to be good, but the results are evil.  In one case, a family was in therapy.  The son had been designated as the one who would be the scape goat to bear the guilt and suffer the punishment for the misdeeds of the rest of the family.  The boy was suffering intense emotional and physical pain as a result of his assigned role in the family.  The parents were convinced their treatment of the son was loving and for the benefit of the son, so the family was resisting treatment. Peck called this parental attitude and behavior the making of a lie – not recognizing and admitting behaviors done in the name of family love were destructive.  Peck calls this behavior “evil.”  Anything not done in love for the benefit of others is to be controlled by the dark side and results in evil.

Mental health professionals talk to patients and clients about personality integration as a way to be rescued from control by the shadow.  This means admitting their unconscious shadow exists and recognizing in what ways evil thoughts and behaviors are initiated from the shadow.  The goal is to bring the shadow part of personality into everyday consciousness and learning to deal with it positively.  I think this is valid as far as it goes.

I believe the Christian gospel aids in the integration of personality. Theologian Paul Tillich wrote that all people have an ultimate concern, but unless the content of that concern is God, it is not ultimate.  The dark side pushes our concerns toward things that are selfish, transitory, and not ultimate.  I believe our personalities can become fully integrated only when we relate to God as our ultimate concern through faith in Jesus the Messiah.

Let’s not go over over to The Dark Side!

It is Hard to Say “Forgive me.”

To say “Forgive me” is difficult because we do not want to admit we have done something wrong or done something that is offensive to someone else. That is a basic trait of all humankind.  It began with the story of Adam and Eve in Eden: we want to be autonomous and run life the way we want to.

I can think of many examples where parents ask their child to apologize to someone for saying or doing something offensive, but the effort was far from being sincere.  We go through life saying “I’m sorry” without meaning it and  without thinking about why we should ask for forgiveness.

Asking for forgiveness is not asking someone to forget our offense.  Sometimes we hear people say, “Forget about it” or “Suck it up.” We don’t forget wrongs and carry them with us as excess baggage.

To say, “Forgive me,” is not asking the another person to excuse our behavior.  We are not asking for our offensive behavior to be tolerated.  We need to seek his or her forgiveness because what was said or done has not been excused or tolerated by them.

To say, “Forgive me,” is asking for reconciliation with another person.  It may not be possible for the other person to accept us.  It may not be possible for us to be friends or colleagues again.  Reconciliation may not happen, but we still need to ask for forgiveness for our sake.  We need to be assured that we have done everything possible for reconciliation to take place.

The biblical word  for “forgiveness” means “to dismiss” or “to let go.” This is what God does in his forgiveness of us.  As an example, we read in the newspaper of a judge who dismisses a charge against a defendant.  That person is then forgiven of any wrongdoing.  His or her record is clean.  When we ask God for his forgiveness, we  are asking for our record with him be made clean.  We are asking another person to give  us a  clean record with them and a fresh start in our relationship.

In his book “What’s so Amazing About Grace,” Philip Yancey tells a story about a man and wife who one night had an argument about how supper was cooked. It was so heated that night they slept in separate rooms. Neither has approached the other to say “I’m sorry” or to offer forgiveness, and they have remained in separate rooms years after the argument.  Each night they go to bed hoping that the other will approach them with an apology and forgiveness, but neither goes to the other.

Here are two people who desperately want reconciliation but cannot exercise the will necessary to bring it about.  One of them has to admit his or her part in the estrangement and ask for forgiveness.  When we ask for forgiveness we admit that we are wrong about something.  It might be a wrong belief, wrong attitude, or wrong behavior.

What if you think there is nothing about your relationship with God or another person that requires you to ask for forgiveness?  Once I had a very heated disagreement with a colleague and we were alienated.  I did not feel good about the distance the argument put between us, but I could not ask forgiveness for my position in the argument.  In thinking about it, I discovered I could ask forgiveness for saying something offensive, or for demonstrating a bad attitude toward him, without giving up what I thought was true.

My view was a deep conviction and I could not ask forgiveness for a basic principle of my life.   However, I asked forgiveness for anything I had said or done that caused him hurt or embarrassment.  I did not want our disagreement about an idea to break our friendship.  Unfortunately,  he wanted me to apologize for what I firmly believed to be true.

Sometimes asking forgiveness of another person is not effective.  However, asking God for his forgiveness is always effective.  In fact, when Jesus died on the cross, God gave forgiveness to all of humanity for all time.  We are forgiven, but we have to admit that God is right: we are all like sheep that have gone astray.  All of us have fallen short God’s being.  We are creatures and not the Creator.  We are fellow creatures with the rest of humanity in spite of our personal feelings of superiority.  Let’s admit our humanity and say, ”Please, forgive me!”

Is Paying Taxes a Theological Issue?

In my home state of Missouri, voters will get the opportunity in November to decide whether to increase the state gas tax by 10 cents a gallon to help pay for road and bridge repairs and to fund the Missouri Highway Patrol. The tax would increase by two-and-a-half cents each year for four years.  Already there are individuals protesting this tax, and at least one protest group has been organized and filed a lawsuit to keep the proposal off the ballot.

Opposition to taxes is nothing new. There will always be taxes as long as we have government. There will always be attempts to modify or to eliminate taxes.  What is a Christian response to taxation?  Should we pay taxes that support programs and individuals with whom we disagree? . I have no easy answer.  In the past, Baptists in England protested having their tax money fund the Church of England

Some would advocate the actions of a man who was called Judas the Galilean.  He was a man who started an anti-tax campaign in the Roman province of Judea.  Most people have never heard of him, but he made quite an impression  back in his day.  The Romans had instituted a new tax policy in 6 BCE that required a census to implement.  This policy was something new.  Previously taxes were paid to whatever official (such as Herod and his sons) that the Romans placed in leadership over the Jews.  Caesar Augustus switched to direct rule by a Roman prefect who organized a census to prepare the mechanism for processing the new direct taxation.  The author of Luke uses the memory of this census as the reason for getting Joseph and Mary down to Bethlehem in chapter 2.

The tax was, as are taxes anywhere, widely unpopular, and taxation was  a constant point of contention between Rome and the Jews.  Judas the Galilean took his protest to a whole new level.  Proclaiming himself as the Messiah, he turned the question of paying taxes to a pagan emperor into a theological issue.  Judas further tried to leverage his call for “no new taxes” into a political and military coup to unseat the Romans.  But as Josephus tells us, this effort was swiftly and brutally suppressed by the Romans.  Judas’ idea survived him and would remain in circulation in the province for some sixty years until the fall of Jerusalem  in 70 CE.  Judas’ followers were called Zealots and one of Jesus’ disciples was Simon the Zealot.  Some scholars think Pilate may have associated Jesus with Judas the Galilean, or even thought Jesus was Judas.

This brings to mind a question Jesus was asked as reported in Matthew 22:15-22.In chapter 21 and the beginning of chapter 22, representatives from a number of Jewish leadership groups come to Jesus with questions: questions about his authority (21:23-27); questions about the resurrection (22:23-33); and questions about the Law (22:34-40). The question in Matthew 22:17 is brought by disciples of the Pharisees and the Herodians. If the Herodians represent the interests of Herod and the other clients of Rome within his circle, this is an unlikely group of partisans. Yet, representatives of both groups come in order to “trap” Jesus.

First, they use flattery by speaking of Jesus’ integrity, commitment to truth and equity, and lack of concern for the opinions of others (22:16). Then, according to Matthew, they laid a political trap for Jesus by asking him how he felt about tax policy: was it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor (v. 17)?  As the introduction of the matter demonstrates, they are trying to get Jesus to come down on one side of the issue or the other.  Either he will have to side with the emperor against the people and look like a collaborator, or side with the people against the government and look like Judas the Galilean.  Either way, no good options.

Jesus, however, was aware of their evil plan, and so he said, “You hypocrites! Why are you trying to trap me? 19 Show me the coin for paying the tax!”

They brought him the coin,  and he asked them, “Whose face and name are these?” “The Emperor’s,” they answered.  So, Jesus said to them, “Well, then, pay to the Emperor what belongs to the Emperor, and pay to God what belongs to God” (Matthew 22:18-21).

The Pharisees avoided Roman coins, for they bear the blasphemous image of Tiberius Caesar and the inscription proclaims him divine.[1] Yet, when Jesus asks for a Roman coin, they readily provide it. There, in the sacred space of the temple, the Pharisees possess the idolatrous image!

Apodidomi, the word translated here as “pay,” has the idea of giving back to someone what is properly their own.  Their money was always Caesar’s.  His rule created it, maintained it, and secured and regulated the marketplace in which it was utilized.  People who had a denarius may have thought it was theirs, but as Jesus reminds them, the stamp of Caesar shows that not to be the case.

As  with many of Jesus’ sayings, it is not clear exactly the point he was trying to make. Whatever Jesus is getting at here, he is not describing a compromise that divides human loyalties neatly between YHWH and the emperor.

I think He is asking an unspoken question: whose image do you bear? What is your greatest loyalty?  The coin of our country bears the image of dead presidents, but each of us bears the image of God. We may divide our budget, but we must never divide our loyalty.  We must never forget to give God what is His: ourselves.

_______________________________

[1] The inscription on the coin required for the tax reads: Augusti Filius August Pontifex Maximus (“Tiberius Caesar, august son of the divine Augustus, high priest”).  Boring, Eugene, “Matthew – Mark,” The New Interpreter’s Bible: A Commentary in Twelve Volumes, volume 8 (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1995), 420.

 

We Need to Redefine Sin

The word “sin” has been part of the English vocabulary for over one thousand years.  Our word form today comes from the Middle English word sinne, which is itself from the Old English word syn.” There is some probability that “sin” can be traced by to the Latin word sont, which means “guilty.”  The original meanings of “sin” were concerned mainly with religious matters, such as “an offense against religious or moral law,” or “breaking God’s laws,” or “a state of human nature that is estranged from God.”

Now, there is no argument that those phrases define the Christian view of sin theologically, for sin is primarily a theological term.  However, what do those phrases say to people in a post-Christian world?  Not much, I am afraid. Most people we know are decent people.  They love their children, they are employed, they do not commit murder, and all the other heinous things that we say is wrong.  They are good people, and surely their good lives and deeds should ensure them a place in God’s heaven.  The idea of being offensive to God because of wrong doing is far from contemporary minds.

What does the Bible call sin?  In the Old Testament we have three main words, two of which have the same root:

  • Chata’ah – an offense and its punishment
  • Chata – miss the mark
  • Ashma – guilty of doing wrong

The New Testament has five major words:

  • Hamartia – missing the target – failure to be what we might have been.
  • Parabasis – stepping across – crossing the line from good to bad.
  • Paraptoma – slipping across – slipping on ice – not as deliberate as parabas; “wrong words slip out.”
  • Anomia – lawlessness – the human instinct to do what we please and defy both human laws and God’s laws.
  • Opheilema – failure to pay what’s due – a failure in duty – this word used in the Model Prayer: failure to perfectly fulfill our duty to our fellow humans.

None of the words define a behavior; they define thought and attitude. We err in thinking of sin as primarily a behavior. There is behavioral sin, but before we behave we think and feel.  Sin starts within us in our thinking and feeling selves.  This is from the New Testament Letter of James:

But we are tempted when we are drawn away and trapped by our own evil desires.  Then our evil desires conceive and give birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death (James 1:14-15).

We think with what I call Mind-Talk. This is our inner conversation, the voice we hear when we think.  It is where our emotions start and grow.  Our Mind-Talk shapes our attitudes, our feelings, and our beliefs. Our Mind-Talk shapes the way we behave toward others.  Whether we have anger, hurt, depression, guilt, worry, happiness, well-being, or contentment, etc., they are homegrown in our Mind-Talk. Our feelings start in our minds, and they grow in our minds. Then, as James notes, our thoughts give birth to behavior that is either good or bad.

The most frequent word in both Testaments that is translated as “sin” is the one that means “missing the mark.”  It is the picture of shooting at a target with bow and arrow and missing the target. We miss the target when we fail to live up to our own moral code, when we love things and use people, when we fail to love and support family.  For most of us, our Mind-Talk keeps reminding us that we are failures in so many ways. We feel estranged from other people, estranged from God, and even estranged from myself.  Have you ever thought, “I just don’t feel like myself today.”?

Not everyone has behaviors that the Church has listed as “sinful.”  Yet, these folk will feel at times they have failed morally or ethically.  They have not been responsible when they were to have been responsible.  Our failures have eternal consequences for we influence our families, our neighbors, our nation, our world.

If sin begins with our Mind-Talk, then an element of salvation (which can also mean healing) is to change our Mind-Talk.  In his letter to the church at Phillip’, the apostle Paul wrote: “The attitude [i.e. mindset] you should have is the one that Christ Jesus had: . .” (2:5). Then in his letter to the church at Ephesus, Paul wrote:

Your hearts and minds must be made completely new, and you must put on the new self, which is created in God’s likeness and reveals itself in the true life that is upright and holy (Ephesians 4:23-24).

What would happen if we began to define sin in terms of personal failure, whether morally, ethically, or professionally?  What would it say about a personal relationship with God through the Christ?  What would happen if we could change our Mind-Talk and think of ourselves as flawed people whom God loves?  What would we be able to tell others about knowing the Christ.

The writer of the New Testament book of Hebrews gives a long list of people of faith that includes a prostitute, a cheat, a murderer, and an adulterer, among others.  At the end of the list, the writer says, “And so God is not ashamed for them to call him their God, because he has prepared a city for them” (Hebrews 11:16b).  This is a list of flawed people who trusted God and saw themselves as accepted by God, though they knew they were unacceptable.  That is the Mind-Talk we all need.

 

 

More About Death and Dying

For the past 20 years I have had a ministry with patients in nursing homes and hospitals.  That experience has taught me a lot about death and dying.  It is my hope that  this series of blogs has been and will be helpful for everyone who reads them.  Several items need consideration.

Having affairs in order

Not everyone has the luxury of planning for death. However, most of us want to retain some control and say-so in our final months and days of life. Those who take the time to think about and plan some of the details of their final care and comfort at death  are better able to retain some control over what happens to them.

Legal specifics of such planning include taking steps to get affairs in order by asking some basic questions:

  • Who will get my property and how should it be divided?  This can be achieved by having an estate plan with a will, trust, or other documents that set out how this should be done.
  • What kind of final medical care do I want?  Do I want life prolonged by artificial means?  What does a “do not resuscitate” order mean?
  • Do I want to be buried or cremated? Where will my remains be kept?
  • Do I want a funeral or memorial service? Who do I want to participate in my service? What music and readings do I want included?

Controlling pain and discomfort

According to recent polls, most of us say we prefer to die at home. The reality is that some three-quarters of the population die in some sort of medical institution, many of them after spending time in an intensive care unit.

A growing number of aging patients are not choosing life-prolonging treatments that might ultimately increase pain and suffering (such as invasive surgery or dialysis); deciding instead to have comfort or palliative care through hospice in their final days.

Emotional care and support

It is equally important to prepare for death emotionally, too. Several questions arise:

  • What quality of life do I want in my final days? Do I want to be kept alive as long as possible by any means possible though I may have no apparent cognitive functions
  • Are there relationships with friends and/or family that need mending before I die?

Often quoted in the literature on death and dying are the tenets of Ira Byock, MD.              Byock says a dying person needs to express four thoughts at the end of life: “I love              you.”  “Thank you.”  “I forgive you.” “Forgive me.”

  • Will I be treated as a live human being until the moment I die?

Though dying may be scary or sad or simply unfamiliar to those who are                               witnessing it, studies of terminally ill patients underscore a common desire to be               treated as live human beings until the moment they die.

Most patients also say they don’t want to be alone during their final days and                       moments. This means that caregivers should find out what kind of medical                           care the dying person wants administered or withheld and be sure that the                           medical personnel on duty are fitting in skill and temperament.

Favorite activities or objects can be as important as final medical care. Caregivers should discover what tangible and intangible things would be most comforting to the patient in the final days, such as favorite music or readings, particularly readings from sacred writings such as the Bible.

A spiritual dimension can help many people find strength and meaning during their final moments. What is the patient’s spiritual or religious understanding? What does the person’s spiritual understanding say about what happens after death and is their understanding adequate to sustain the person through death?

For additional help

  • Ira Bycock, The Four Things That Matter Most: A Book About Living, ed. New York: Atria Books, 2004, 2014.
  • Caring.com (https://www.caring.com/end-of-life) is an excellent online resource for caregivers seeking information and support as they care for aging patients and loved ones.  Caring.com offers thousands of original articles, helpful tools, advice from more than 50 leading experts, a community of caregivers, and a comprehensive directory of caregiving services.

Spirituality at the of Life

Caring for a dying loved one isn’t easy. Even when you know the end of life is near, you might feel unprepared emotionally, physically, and spiritually. Understanding and knowing what to expect — and what you can do to increase your loved one’s comfort — can help both you and the one you love.

As your loved one approaches the end of life, he or she might talk about spirituality or the meaning of life, so encourage them to explore and address his or her feelings. If they do not have a saving knowledge of Jesus, share how Christ can come into their lives and give them eternal life. If the person has made a commitment to Jesus in previous years, is he or she secure in that Christian commitment or are there feelings of doubt? Are there unconfessed sins that need forgiveness? Are there broken relationships that need mending?

Communion might be helpful for friends and family to gather around the bedside and share the elements together with the loved one. This could be the occasion that could help your loved one say goodbye to friends and family. This also gives others an opportunity to say goodbye to the one who is dying. This would also be the time to have a prayer to commit the person to the Lord; giving thanks for sharing his or her life, asking for ease of pain and that God would draw the person to Himself and give her or him His love, His peace, and His presence.

Scripture passages can be read that tell of the faithfulness of God and His love and care. Other passages can point to the eternal assurance a person has through faith. Encourage your loved one to memorize some verses that give him or her added assurance of God’s love and grace eternal life.

Decide whether there will be a funeral or memorial service. Will there be a cremation or casket? What music is to be played and sung, and who are the musicians? What are the Scriptures to be read? There may be other details that would be helpful to the family and the officiating clergy in conducting a funeral service.

Your loved one might also find it comforting to leave a legacy — such as creating a recording about his or her life or writing letters to loved ones, especially to grandchildren.

Where Will You Die?

This is the second article dealing with death and dying.  The material has been freely adapted   available through the Mayo Clinics.

We can choose when we die.  We can choose, within reason, how we die. We can choose where we will die.  But, we cannot choose not to die.  Death comes to all.

Caring for a dying person isn’t easy. Even when you know the end of life is approaching, you might not feel prepared. Understanding what to expect — and what you can do to increase the person’s comfort — can help.

Most people will have choices for end-of-life care. Options might include:

Home care. Most people prefer to die at home or in the home of a family member. You can assume the role of caregiver or hire home care services for support. Hospice care — services that help ensure the highest quality of life for whatever time remains — can be provided at home as well.  The purpose of hospice is to ensure people die free of pain and with dignity. In many instances, you will not pay for hospice service.

Hospice provides an on-call nurse, medications, and medical equipment.  In many states hospice care is supported financially by Medicaid, and in other areas hospice care is supported by a hospital or by public gifts.

Inpatient care. Some people might prefer round-the-clock care at a nursing home, hospital or dedicated inpatient hospice facility. Hospice and palliative care — a holistic treatment approach intended to ease symptoms, relieve pain, and address spiritual and psychological concerns — can be provided in any of these environments.

Understand clearly what your family member wants at the end of life.  Talk with her or his health care team or a social worker. You might ask for a referral to palliative or hospice care specialists — health care providers trained in specific care for people nearing the end of life.

Also, understand what your hospital means by “Do not resuscitate”  and other terms. If your family member or friend has this phrase in their health directive, ensure everyone involved knows what  is meant and how that  fits into the person’s health care directive. If your loved one opts for life support, have an understanding of when you could”pull the plug”and end all treatment.

Whether you bring a dying loved one home or keep vigil at the hospital, you can take measures to provide comfort and relief at the end of life.