St Mary's church, Upton on Mersey

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By Pat Nickson

Former Associate Vicar of St.Mary's Upton and worldwide community health pioneer.

Pat wrote this at the end of March 2009.


In late August 2007, I was four days away from international travel. Slight abdominal discomfort took me to the GP simply to confirm that I was not ‘cooking’ something serious. “You may find that you can’t travel” said the very bright and sympathetic GP, who offered to talk more once she had finished the evening surgery. After the initial shock, I recognised that I, who was usually fit and full of energy, was being told that I probably had a terminal illness.


Eighteen months further on, with failed surgery and treatment behind me, I am on a pilgrimage which has given me a new and exciting relationship with God and has taken me, and continues to take me through a Glade in which peace reigns and the process of dying and resurrection have become a way of life which I want to share with those who are frightened of talking about dying.


Before going any further, however, it is important that we identify areas in our lives, where we cannot make comparisons, and where differences in our backgrounds mean that we cannot expect similarities which will help us to accept terminal or serious illness in the same way: Circumstances that may make us very different and thus incomparable include:


- Family: Having/not having a living spouse or dependents

- Life-experiences: Having lived through dangers, isolation and other life-style risks

- Health: Living in situations in which health care is not given the highest priority

- Faith: The importance we give to our faith-lives, will make a difference to our view of death

- Being generally relaxed, positive and at peace (how we approach life) will have an effect on how we approach dying.




1. To live is Christ, to die is gain. (Philippians 1v21-23)

Christ was the source and secret of Paul's continual joy (even in prison), for Paul's life found all its meaning in Christ. He specifies that the gain brought by death is "being with Christ," - his ultimate concern and most precious possession, both now and always is Christ and his relationship with him (Phil 1:23). So why is it so difficult for us to talk about or to confront death? For each of us, the answer will be different.


2. Changing horizons.

For the dying person as well as for the carer, horizons are changing:


For the carer: horizons (the approaching death event – if it can be anticipated) may be getting closer too quickly because of the fear of loss and the longing to hold on to the hope of healing (and continuing bodily presence).


For the sick loved one: horizons may be being pushed away through prayer and caring (often by the close carer), while the sick person may prefer to draw the horizons towards him/herself – an indication of a readiness to meet God.


3. Prayer.

The sick person and the carer’s felt need of prayer (for the dying person) may differ considerably. Someone on a pilgrimage with a special and growing relationship with God may be praying that his/her response to the beckoning Light at the end of the Glade, will give a tangible peace that will encourage others. The carer may want complete healing for the loved one, suggesting that they want to see the loved one pulled back through the Glade to resume a new, completely restored life. But what does God want to give? My walk has been so special, as has the peace that goes with it. I would not want to be ‘pulled back’ through the Glade, but rather to walk on into the beckoning Light.


For me: “The Christian life is a pilgrimage during which we confront the challenges and opportunities of this world (Rev 3:10). Dying is a part of that pilgrimage where I see myself walking through a Glade, where the sunshine/Light beckons me on, but is clouded by mist, which is the mystery of passing from the Glade through to the Resurrection”


Pat died on Sunday 26th April 2009, just four weeks after writing this article.



The pencil drawing above is taken from a card that was sent to Pat. It was drawn by her freind Jean Morris - and is used with her permission. Pat often referred to the picture in her last months, as she has in this article. It inspired her, and others around her, for she saw her last days as a journey towards the light.