Kerry Walters is professor of philosophy and peace and justice studies at Gettysburg College. He is the author of many books including Merciful Meekness. In this paperback, he shares his thoughts on the proposition that "a good death requires preparation that needs to begin long before we enter the final stage of life."
During the fifteenth and seventeenth centuries, art of dying manuals appeared in Christianity. They were focused mainly on ways to prepare for death in order to avoid torment in the fires of hell. Other works of devotional literature put the emphasis on preparing for death in advance and presenting guidelines for a fulfilling and rewarding life. Walters' art of dying manual contains profiles and spiritual assessments of seven exemplary individuals who can tutor us in the art of living and dying.
The author's focus on living toward a good death is appropriate medicine for Americans and others who continue to avoid the subject. In addition, Walters has coupled each of the seven people with a virtue or habit of the heart which can offer alternatives to the inequalities, amorality, and corruption of our times. Here are the saints covered along with the virtue they incarnated:
• Joseph Bernardin (trust)
• Thea Bowman (love)
• Etty Hillesum (gratitude)
• Jonathan Daniels (obedience)
• Dietrich Bonhoeffer (courage)
• John Paul II (patience)
• Caryll Houselander (christing)
Here is Cardinal Joseph Bernardin on death:
"We can look at death as an enemy or a friend. If we see it as an enemy, death causes anxiety and fear. We tend to go into a state of denial. But if we see it as a friend, out attitude is truly different. As a person of faith, I see death as a friend, as the transition from earthly life to life eternal."
It is a pleasure to see the creative ways in which Walters has used seven positive character qualities as building blocks for living and d ying well.