Sometimes there is a need to contemplate and face up to the issue of dying.

It’s never an easy subject but in this column we want to try and bring hope and encouragement to someone. Today Tony Francis has written to share his time, thoughts, and observations of being with his good friend in the last days of his life.

Henri Nouman said, ‘A man or woman without hope in the future cannot live creatively in the present’ How can we imagine that hope being represented in the end life experiences of the terminally ill?

I witnessed that very thing at St Helena’s Hospice when I visited my friend.

My visit to the hospice was a whole new dialogue. A dialogue of a corrupted body but uncorrupted spirit. My friend and I go way back, although our lives have been separated. We enjoyed reminiscence. We spoke in familiar gaiety of the many people, places, and things we have shared in. We could jointly piece together many absurdities with raucous joviality.

Another temporary resident joined us. The conversation dipped somewhat as the two understandably swopped some frailties of their conditions. Our new friend had been for treatment and her flesh was glowing. Her reference to her complexion as being ‘Simpsony’ gave a welcomed buoyance to the atmosphere. She described her yellow colouring as something of a status symbol in the hospice, dependant on just how like the Simpson cartoon family one might be. Such incredible English ironic humour, such heroism.

The conversation then went into the hope for the future, hope with such wit and creativity. The two exchanged tales and suggestions for funeral arrangements. My friend was suggesting how his coffin could be managed by his chosen bearers. He recognised that there would be a significant height differential between the bearers, particularly as one is around the six-foot five mark and another nearer the five foot. We laughed and laughed. This took us to the place of his creative soul. The place he loves to be, where he was always at his best despite his corrupt body. This wit put life on life’s terms right into my friend’s spirit. My friend had been an artist all his life. He remained an artist. His heart was for art, his personality mirrored his creative soul for art and was one of peace and joy until the very last breath.

He recorded his own song for his funeral. He was a musician and had sung it himself. He wanted his coffin to come alive with annotations and recordings which took apart every notion of death as remorse or sorry. He would play out death as he had always played out life.

We had this time to specifically share our spirituality in prayer. What an honour it was to pray with and for this man. We both had a fondness for the serenity prayer ‘God grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, the courage to change the things we can and the wisdom to know the difference’. I read a bible piece to him which, was a God given personal message of thanks for him being the gifted man he is.

Every spectrum of the human experience was there in those couple of hours. St Helena Hospice is a portal and not merely a place. An emersion in a nurturing of the final transition gave my friend a hope for the future. He showed no anxiety and he stated he had no fear. He spoke of his funeral as if it were to be another gig. He was in a state of transition and certainly not consequence. He recognised and anticipated a reparation. There were no tears and no talk of death or pain. There was no mourning as we laughed and laughed.

We Christians have our ‘thin places’. Places where a little bit of heaven touches earth. We had that at St Helen’s hospice.

The bible says in Revelation 21.4 that He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.