Because You've Never Died Before

Apr 7, 2019

On this episode of Arts & Letters, we talk with hospice educator and pastor Dr. Kathleen J. Rusnak about what the dying learn about living at the end of life and how this knowledge is their gift to us in the midst of life.

Her book Because You've Never Died Before, published by Brick Wall 2, offers a framework for giving meaning to the experiences of those who are dying as well as an opportunity to gain from the wisdom and insight of the dying for your own life now.

"What the dying learn about living at the end of life is their gift to us in the midst of life."

Rusnak shares composite stories from her many years as a pastor and counselor to patients in hospice care and their families and provides insight into the experiences of the dying and their loved ones who surround them.   

“When I arrived, Paul's wife answered the door. I introduced myself and was greeted with a suspicious look and a stern voice: ‘I don't know what he wants to see you for, but when you see him, don't tell him he's dying. He doesn't know.’ I mused at how often I had been the recipient of this same command of deception, which was a clear indication of the closed communication between the patient and others, resulting in loneliness for all parties.”

Dr. Kathleen J. Rusnak is an ordained Lutheran pastor with a doctorate in Psychology and Religion.

She has been the pastor of three Lutheran congregations, a hospice chaplain in two hospices, the director of spiritual care and bereavement at The Connecticut Hospice (the first hospice in the United States).

Author Dr. Kathleen Rusnak

She has lived and worked in Israel for over two years as the director and study coordinator of the theological department at a post-Holocaust Christian European kibbutz in the Galilee, which focused on repentance and renewal towards the Jewish people.

A special thanks to singers and songwriters Michael Shackleford and Future Elevators, Handmade Moments, and Folk Family Revival. A special thanks to The Mad Deadly, whose music served for much of the backdrop of this episode.

Thank you to Stickyz Rock ‘N’ Roll Chicken Shack for keeping music alive and well in Arkansas.

A very special thanks to Arkansas Hospice for introducing us to Dr. Rusnak.  

Generous funding for this episode was provided by the Arkansas Humanities Council and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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