An old adage says that a person is not truly ready to live unless they are ready to die. What if we could prepare ourselves to live life without regrets? This medical technician has identified three desires (patterns) of the dying: The need for forgiveness, to be remembered, and to have had significance (meaning). I do not know if he is a Christian but I want to affirm that in an ultimate sense, only in Christ can these three desires be met.
The enduring picture of vicarious atonement–the innocent victim (animal) for human debt to God–was fulfilled in Jesus’ death on the cross. “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4.12 NIV). Secondly, the need to be remembered and therefore loved (although he said it was to live on in memories of others, and so immortality) will never be truly realized from humans. Please note what Ecclesiastes says about this matter: “No one remembers the former generations, and even those yet to come will not be remembered by those who follow them.” (1.11 NIV). Also, the need to have a meaningful life can only be found in God who defines it by creation and sustaining love.
Having responded to many cases since then where patients were in their last moments and there was nothing I could do for them, in almost every case, they have all had the same reaction to the truth, of inner peace and acceptance. In fact, there are three patterns I have observed in all these cases.
The first pattern always kind of shocked me. Regardless of religious belief or cultural background, there’s a need for forgiveness. Whether they call it sin or they simply say they have a regret, their guilt is universal. I had once cared for an elderly gentleman who was having a massive heart attack. As I prepared myself and my equipment for his imminent cardiac arrest, I began to tell the patient of his imminent demise. He already knew by my tone of voice and body language. As I placed the defibrillator pads on his chest, prepping for what was going to happen, he looked me in the eye and said, “I wish I had spent more time with my children and grandchildren instead of being selfish with my time.” Faced with imminent death, all he wanted was forgiveness.
The second pattern I observe is the need for remembrance. Whether it was to be remembered in my thoughts or their loved ones’, they needed to feel that they would be living on. There’s a need for immortality within the hearts and thoughts of their loved ones, myself, my crew, or anyone around. Countless times, I have had a patient look me in the eyes and say, “Will you remember me?”
The final pattern I observe always touched me the deepest, to the soul. The dying need to know that their life had meaning. They need to know that they did not waste their life on meaningless tasks. This came to me very, very early in my career. I had responded to a call. There was a female in her late 50s severely pinned within a vehicle. She had been t-boned at a high rate of speed, critical, critical condition. As the fire department worked to remove her from the car, I climbed in to begin to render care. As we talked, she had said to me, “There was so much more I wanted to do with my life.” She had felt she had not left her mark on this Earth. As we talked further, it would turn out that she was a mother of two adopted children who were both on their way to medical school. Because of her, two children had a chance they never would have had otherwise and would go on to save lives in the medical field as medical doctors. It would end up taking 45 minutes to free her from the vehicle. However, she perished prior to freeing her.