Fulfilling his dying mother’s dream, Gregory Armstrong shares his mother’s writings about how to die with peaceful dignity in Heavenly Bound.
When doctors told Jo Ann Armstrong there was nothing more they could do for her, she naturally moved through the five stages of death: “denial…anger, bargaining, depression, and finally, acceptance.” During her final stage, Armstrong desired to help others navigate the living part of dying by writing down her thoughts. In this brief, tender book, she analyzes death from the perspectives of the one dying, their family and friends.
Armstrong encourages those facing death to first seek salvation through Jesus Christ. With the caring tone of a loving mother, she discusses how to wait patiently for death by keeping busy, preparing a living will, and being brave about making funeral arrangements. Here, she includes farewell letters to her loved ones as examples for readers.
Armstrong offers family and friends frank advice, such as “don’t cry for long or carry on continuously” and “treat them [the dying person] no differently from how you did before…” Believing that “death can be a terrible experience or a beautiful one,” her ultimate hope is that “we work together to make dying easier for everyone.”
Armstrong assumes her audience is Christian and incorporates many biblical passages throughout her commentary. Unfortunately, some of these contain errors a proofreader should have caught; also, the wording doesn’t always match the versions she claims to use. She also tends to make her feelings universal, failing to consider differing viewpoints. For example, she instructs family members to not “make a fuss” over dying loved ones in pain because “they would rather suffer in silence and keep their dignity.” Readers will need to decide themselves whether to accept or reject Armstrong’s advice.
Nonetheless, there is much of value here. Although a large portion of Armstrong’s narrative assumes a Christian audience, her inside look at this difficult yet natural aspect of life is pertinent to all.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.