Hospice Chaplain Myth #1: Deathbed Confessions

I’ve had more than one person tell me, when I tell them what I do, that they expected that I had many people who in the last part of their life made some sort of deathbed confession. In the last 10 years of my ministry in hospice I can say that I cannot remember a single time when I was called over to some patient’s bedside as they mended their ways and repented.

The first reason is simply practical: most of the folks we have on hospice are in no condition to confess anything. Due to dementia or stroke, many are left not being able to understand or be understood. Also many who are in the beginning stages of dying are too weak to do so and are unresponsive or comatose.

The second is coincidental: folks who choose hospice aren’t typically afraid of dying. They’ve accepted it, and with that acceptance comes a resolution to let happen what is going to happen. Those with faith of some kind, weak or strong, haven’t felt the need to confess to me as they’ve already confessed to God or to their own priest.

I have dealt with guilt, anger, depression, and all of the other aspects of grief that come from dying. However by and large their haven’t been the touching deathbed confessions that you see on TV or in movies.

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