Caring for the Dying
Caring for others is, first of all, helping them to overcome that enormous temptation of self-rejection. Whether we are rich or poor, famous or unknown, fully abled or disabled, we all share the fear of being left alone and abandoned, a fear that remains hidden under the surface of our self-composure. It is rooted much more deeply than in the possibility of not being liked or loved by people. Its deepest root lies in the possibility of not being loved at all, of not belonging to anything that lasts, or being swallowed up by a dark nothingness—yes, of being abandoned by God.
Caring, therefore, is being present to people as they fight this ultimate battle, a battle that becomes evermore real and intense as death approaches. Dying and death always call forth, with renewed power, the fear that we are unloved and will, finally, be reduced to useless ashes. To care is to stand by a dying person and to be a living reminder that the person is indeed the beloved child of God. . . .
We shouldn’t try to care by ourselves. Care is not an endurance test. We should, whenever possible, care together with others. It is the community of care that reminds the dying person of his or her belovedness.
by Henri J.M. Nouwen
Helping them to stand on their own feet
Each person is important, each is capable of changing, evolving, becoming a little more open, responding to love and to communion. I would like to pass on to others this faith in human beings and in their capacity for growth. Without it, our societies are in danger of becoming purely paternalistic in their attitude to those who are weaker, doing things for them rather than helping them to stand on their own feet so that they can do things for themselves and then open themselves to others. Our societies are in danger of rejecting those who disturb them too much, and sometimes even wanting to get rid of them.
Jean Vanier, Our Journey Home, pp. 147-148