Mrs. Hunter's Happy Death
Lessons on Living from People Preparing to Die
By John Fanestil
(Doubleday Religion, Hardcover, 9780385516068, 272pp.)
Publication Date: February 21, 2006
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What is the secret of people who die contented and fulfilled? What makes it possible for them to attain such spiritual heights as they approach their physical demise? What enables them to make death a completion of life, rather than a tragic end? And what can they teach us about life and death, love and loss, grief and spiritual growth?
The way we die, like the way we live, makes a difference—in our lives and the lives of others.
From time to time during his work as a pastor, John Fanestil has witnessed someone dying with remarkable and uplifting grace. Fanestil was moved yet puzzled by the spirit of happiness and holiness he observed. Contemporary literature on dying, filled with talk of anger, acceptance, and forgiveness, provided little to explain it. But the chance discovery of articles about the ritual of the “happy death” in religious magazines from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries brought Fanestil the answers he sought.
Mrs. Hunter’s Happy Death blends the captivating historical accounts Fanestil uncovered with his own pastoral experiences to reveal the secrets that enable people to transcend pain and suffering and embrace death as a completion of life, not as a tragic end. A fascinating introduction to a historic approach to death and its contemporary incarnations, Mrs. Hunter’s Happy Death also offers specific lessons on living and dying, from the “exercise of prayer” to the “labor of love” to “bearing testimony.”
With the spread of in-home medical and hospice care, death is once again being embraced as a natural part of life, infused with profound emotional and spiritual dimensions. The inspiring stories in Mrs. Hunter’s Happy Death beautifully demonstrate that the way we die, like the way we live, makes a supreme difference—in our lives and in the lives of others.
JOHN FANESTIL, a native of San Diego, is a graduate of Dartmouth College, Oxford University—where he studied as a Rhodes Scholar—and the Claremont School of Theology. Since 1992 he has worked as a pastor at United Methodist churches in Southern California.
Advance Praise for Mrs. Hunter’s Happy Death
“Mrs. Hunter’s Happy Death deserves, and will delight, a wide readership. Very few authors could pull off such a tour de force where history, theology, spirituality, and pastoral care sit so cozily within the covers of a single book.”
--Leonard Sweet, author of Out of the Question . . . Into the Mystery
“In an era in which death often stalks a patient long before overtaking them, this book serves as a manual as well as an inspiration. Not since the work of Elisabeth Kübler-Ross three decades ago has there been such a seminal work in the field.”
--Dr. Robert W. Edgar, National Council of Churches USA
“Mrs. Hunter’s Happy Death is more than an engaging and creative treatment of death. It is a ringing affirmation of life lived with faith, love, joy, and hope.”
--Bishop Kenneth L. Carder, Duke University Divinity School
“Happiness in dying is the admixture of joy and contentment, which finds expression in words or gestures of gratitude and praise. It is this final act of faithful living that Fanestil discerns and documents so convincingly from his pastoral experience. Mrs. Hunter’s Happy Death bears witness to happy death as present reality. It testifies not only to a death that has lost its sting, but to a life that is no longer haunted by the prospect of having to die.”
--Wallace M. Alston, director, Center of Theological Inquiry
“Mrs. Hunter’s Happy Death plumbs the depths of life’s greatest mystery and offers hope through the experience of a woman who had learned the art of dying well. Truly inspirational: a magnificent immersion in the real substance of life and death.”
--Dr. Paul Wesley Chilcote, author of Changed from Glory into Glory