Earlier this year, as cancer steadily ravaged his body, the Rev. Forrest Church received the Art Buchwald Spirit Award for Public Awareness for the candid approach Church took in his sermons, pastoral counsel, and books toward his end-of-life journey.
"Buchwald was the first to bring his death to the public. He had people laughing with him," Church says. Buchwald, a humorist and newspaper columnist, died in 2007 after a very public battle with kidney failure. He had outlived doctors' predictions and had spoken openly about his desire to live well until his final breath.
Here, Church tells writer Carl Lehmann-Haupt that appreciation can—and should—be part of each stage of your life, including the last. "Even though you're living your last days of life, you live life. Life doesn't live you,” he remarked. “And certainly death doesn't live you."
Appreciating your life after you've accepted your "death sentence" allows you to be more aware, Church observed. "When your whole present tense is past and future oriented, then you are not present; you're in an imaginary place," he said. "One of the challenges, or gifts, that comes with knowing you're terminal is that you are probably made more conscious."
Church says that accepting and appreciating death can, ironically, make you more aware of living. "That is one of the backhanded gifts of death; it can tend to bring you to life."