Adam McHugh’s Meditation on Life, Death, and His Hospice Work

Good morning friends. I will be back with some original stuff of my very own next week. I’d like to end this week with one more link to a colleague’s post. I first got to know Adam McHugh (as much as one can get to know someone solely through Facebook, blogging, and emails) because of his book Introverts in the Church and his blog of the same name. But Adam is far more than a champion of introverts and the contributions we can make to our communities. He is also a pastor, a wine aficionado and sommelier-in-training, and a freshly retired hospice chaplain. Yesterday, he wrote a gorgeous post after his last on-call hospice shift.

As I wrote to Adam, I think his post ought to be regular reading for all of us, particularly in this season of Lent, because of how it so beautifully articulates the beauty and ugliness of death, the sadness and joy of life, the fleeting and eternal natures of human life. There are so many striking phrases that I can barely decide which to feature here. There is this one:

I have holy memories, and I have haunted memories, and they mingle in my mind, like a wedding attended by two families who hate each other.

And this one:

When you spend as much time around death as I have over these last 2 years, when every day on the calendar is Ash Wednesday, you learn that ultimately life offers no happy endings. Every life ends in sadness and grief and pain and silence. And all we can do is struggle and work, believe and doubt, hope and fall, run and wrinkle. Every person has both a victor and a victim inside of her. You have more fight and strength in you than you ever imagined, but you also have more weakness and vulnerability than you ever thought. Your bodies will decay and ultimately lose the fight, but you will battle valiantly and courageously. I have seen it time and time again from people you wouldn’t think would be so strong.

Adam ends with one of my very favorite prayers from the Book of Common Prayer:

Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ, give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the joyous, and all for your love’s sake. Amen.

Go give the entire post a read, and offer Adam a word of thanks and blessing if you will.


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About Ellen Painter Dollar

Ellen Painter Dollar is a writer focusing on faith, parenting, family, disability, and ethics. She is the author of No Easy Choice: A Story of Disability, Faith, and Parenthood in an Age of Advanced Reproduction (Westminster John Knox, 2012). Visit her web site at for more on her writing and speaking, and to sign up for a (very) occasional email newsletter.