Marianne Rozario and Lia Shimeda
Ashes to Ashes:
Beliefs, Trends and Practices in Dying, Death, and the Afterlife
ISBN 978 1 83829559 5 4
Price £7.99
88 pages

Andrew Grey
Dignity at the End of Life:
What’s Beneath the Assisted Dying Debate
ISBN 978 0 9956543 3 4
Price £7.99
91 pages

These two carefully researched and beautifully presented reports are a timely addition to Christian thought concerning death and dying.

In the first the authors examine evolving attitudes toward how we mark people’s death. This report helpfully explores what good grief involves and considers the rites and ceremonies at the end of life.

I was interested by what is said about the movement away from the funereal towards a celebration of life. The implications of this are that the two great preachers at the service: God and death tend to have their voices – of real grief in hope – muted by the sometimes upbeat voice of the deceased, or the vicarious voices that the deceased has left behind.

The second report, first published in 2017, tackles the timely and contentious issue of what to think about attitudes toward those who are coming to the end of their lives.

We have all heard the debates about whether human have a right to die on their terms, and in a manner of their choosing. This report explores what we mean by human dignity and how it is maintained at the last stages of a person’s life.

The claim that human dignity is compromised by a drawn out, painful death that leaves a person unable to have any control of self-care or decision making is challenged by this report. The authors want to underline that the basis of human dignity is not primarily our function, usefulness, or value to others, rather it is determined by the fact that we are made in the image of God.

“Relationality is at the heart of a Christian understanding of what it is to be human. This is based on the belief that all human beings are made in the image of a Trinitarian God whose nature is love, and part of whose essence is to exist as three persons in relationship.”

For the report authors, this means that dignity is maintained not by so-called “assisted dying” but by caring for our loved ones so that they do not feel that they are a burden on us or society.

John Woods is a writer and Bible teacher based in West Sussex. He is Director of Training at the School of Preachers in Riga, Latvia.