Crossing the Threshold of Eternity by Robert L. Wise

Subtitle: What the Dying Can teach the Living. Published by Guideposts 2007.

Although this is mainly a book about dying and the afterlife, it has two chapters that deal with the subject of praying with the dying that are useful to anyone either facing the end of life or the death of a loved one.

The book recounts the body of knowledge currently available on the spiritual and emotional experience of death. The author catalogs scientific studies as well as true experiences from those who work with the dying. The author himself also gives his own eye witness accounts as a chaplain working with the dying and surprises us later in the book with the impact his own near death experience had on his beliefs.

Review: This book helped me gain new perspective on death as crossing over into a different reality. It gave me confidence in how to pray for the dying.

This book takes a look at what we can learn from the dying about what lies on the other side in eternity. The author says we’ll never have a clear picture of the death experience, but we do have “snapshots” that give us clues. These include scientific studies of near death experiences and the observations of ministers and hospice nurses who tend to those who are dying . It also gives accounts from individuals who have had near death experiences and the author himself speaks out of personal experience after being deathly ill before making a miraculous recovery.

The thing that sticks with me most is the fact that the spiritual world is real and that the dying are experiencing a transition into a realm we can’t see. The author says we should listen closely to them and accept things they might share such as seeing an angel or a departed loved one in the room.

As far as praying for the dying, the author says, “Usually the final prayers are a form of dismissal, sending the person out of this world with God’s blessing. Needless to say, such moments are precious and extremely helpful for the departing. They offer forgiveness, blessing and deliverance. However, I realized there was more to be done. I believe that the dying continue to need the peace and energy that comes with healing prayer.”

He goes on to say, “With the passing years, I began to realize that praying for the sick is more than intervening for a specific problem. Actually it is reaching out with one hand to touch the risen Christ while holding on to the sick with the other hand.”

He says that although the things that happen as a result of these kinds of prayers can’t be predicted, the result “is always restorative” because the dying may have unfinished business and may also need energy and strength to cross over into eternity.

He details the kind of spiritual and mental preparation he makes before going to pray with the dying. This includes praying beforehand using simple repetitive prayers such as “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me” until he finds peace, then continuing in an attitude of silent prayer as he enters the person’s room.

He outlines the following steps he follows when praying with the dying. 1) retreat, 2) prepare, 3) meditation, 4) listen, 5) inform, 6) ritual 7) acceptance.

Here are some memorable quotes:
“I believe that our prayers can offer the support and encouragement the dying need for crossing to the other side.”

“When you attempt to pray in this manner, you may be unaware of anything happening, but the answer is not in you. It’s in the risen Lord!”

“I believe that eternity is more like an unseen dimension. To be more precise, Earth is only a single aspect of the immeasurableness of God’s world.”

I purchased this book because I had a care receiver who was facing terminal cancer. I wanted to know the sorts of things she might be experiencing and how I could help encourage and comfort her. As a result of reading this book I felt much more comfortable talking about death and had a greater awareness of the spiritual side of life that we can’t see. I was able to pray with more confidence with my friend.

I think everyone needs to read this book because we all sooner or later personally face end of life issues.