Conversation: Melody Rossi
At death’s door
Melody Rossi, author of May I Walk You Home? Sharing Christ’s
Love With the Dying, spent years as a professional opera singer and college
professor (at Vanguard University), and now leads Cloud & Fire Ministries
— an inner-city ministry in Los Angeles County that aims to transform the
lives of urban youth. Recently, Rossi spoke with Managing Editor Kirk Noonan
about sharing one’s faith with those who are dying.
tpe: You led your mom to a relationship with the Lord while
she was on her deathbed. In your book you described her death as a watershed
moment. What do you mean by that?
ROSSI: You stand at a point in life and in a wonderful way
God shows you how many things led to that moment. He shows you how the moment
isn’t accidental or coincidental or random. My mom’s death was that kind of
moment for me.
My entire life I had seen her anger and bitterness toward
God, people and the church. Unfortunately, I assumed that was the way it would
always be. But the moment she died everything flashed before my eyes, and I
realized that God had been working on my mother all along. That realization
showed me the breadth of His love and how He is constantly wooing people.
tpe: Often people suffering loss ask, “Why do bad things
happen to good people?” How do you answer that?
ROSSI: I don’t have a good answer for that other than that
God is good. There is plenty of evidence of His goodness.
We don’t live in a perfect world, and death reminds us of
that imperfection more than anything. The pain we feel when someone dies is
evidence that life is not meant to be like this. We are not meant to die or
have bad things happen. That was not a part of God’s original plan.
Though we may not be able to find an answer to why bad
things happen to good people, we might find comfort in asking a different
question such as: God, can You still speak to me, walk with me and help me
through the pain?
And the answer to that is, yes He can, because He is God.
tpe: People may be reluctant to share their faith with the
dying because they figure they will be crossing lines that shouldn’t be crossed.
What do you think about that?
ROSSI: I have never encountered a situation where someone
reached out to someone who was dying and the dying person said, “Leave me
alone.” Yes, there can be awkwardness in such situations, but it will go away
if a person is willing to serve the dying person.
tpe: What myths are associated with telling a dying person
ROSSI: We tend to think there is no hope, especially if we
have a close friend or family member who is dying and has lived for years
without knowing Jesus. But no matter how a dying person has lived his or her
life, the end-of-life period changes all the rules.
Healthy people who are angry with God may not want to
discuss Him with you. But I have found that people who are dying are thinking
about God in a completely different way. We need to remember that any mention
they make of God — even in a cynical or joking way — might be a
door they are opening for us to engage them in a conversation about God.
tpe: What cautions do you offer to people who have a loved
one or acquaintance who is dying?
ROSSI: It’s not about you. It’s about them and what God is
already doing in their lives. Another thing is not to focus on what is
comfortable for you, but instead give priority to what is comfortable for the
Find a way you can be a supportive conduit God can work
through. You need to watch, listen and be a servant. That is crucial. As you do
that, the ice will thaw, you’ll gain credibility and gain access to that
Don’t assume God will only use the chaplain, preacher or
counselor. He can and will use you if you allow Him to.
tpe: What is one thing about death you have found
ROSSI: It’s a sacred moment accompanied by profound feelings
of emptiness. In the weeks leading up to my mother’s death I was the stoic one
who remained calm. But when she died I spent a lot of time crying. I wasn’t
hysterical, but there was a sense that the word death could not describe what I
just witnessed. To see a person you love so much enter the spiritual realm
brings sorrow, but there is also extreme joy in knowing your loved has walked
tpe: What do you say to the person who has lost hope a loved
one will commit his or her life to Christ before he or she dies?
ROSSI: My father, mother and stepmother were all very far
from God and lived extremely worldly lives. They never showed any signs of
spiritual life until they committed their hearts to Christ on their deathbeds.
If God can reach them, He can reach anyone. The places we don’t expect God to
work, including the deathbed, are places where He can take an entire life of
mistakes and transform that life into a miracle — even up to a person’s
very last breath.
E-mail your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Resources by Melody Rossi are available at www.gospelpublishing.com.