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Our Little Sisters in Gallup reflect on care of the dying

As a palliative care nurse, Sally Tisdale has seen a lot of people die, and in her new book Advice for Future Corpses and Those Who Love Them, she promises her readers a “practical perspective on death and dying.” But, according to Sister Rosario Flor, Sister Mary William, and Sister Catherine Mary of the Little Sisters of the Poor of Villa Guadalupe in Gallup, NM, Tisdale’s practical guide has missed out on the most vital aspect of death and dying: the spiritual.

The mission of the Little Sisters of the Poor is “to offer the neediest elderly of every race and religion a home where they will be welcomed as Christ, cared for as family, and accompanied with dignity until God calls them to himself.” While Tisdale’s book seems to offer much valuable, practical insight on how to “be there” for the dying, the ministry of the Little Sisters of the Poor takes Tisdale’s concepts much further.

For the most part, Tisdale’s advice – such as “don’t assume a [dying] person is confused,” “don’t ask a person not to die,” and “if you’re at the bedside [of the dying], provide safety” – will strike most people as respectful, appropriate, and common-sense. But according to sisters Rosario, Mary, and Catherine, advice like “resist the urge to bring up ‘unfinished business,’ to seek ‘closure,’” is one thing that certainly misses the mark.

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