|"Death is a natural part of life," said the venerable Neung-haeng, the first Buddhist Hospice activist. /Photograph: Bang Hye-jung|
“What is the death and what does it mean to us?”
One individual has taken a lot of time to consider this question. The answer: “Death is a natural part of life.” She is the venerable Neung-haeng(50yrs). Neung-haeng was the first Buddhist Hospice activist.
At the end of 1999, Neung-haeng realized there were no proper places for sick patients nearing the end of their lives. She believed that all patients had the right to stay comfortable at this time, so she established the Jungtoh Foundation in Cheongwon-gun of ChungcheongBuk-Do. For the past 15 years she has mourned over the deaths of a great number of terminally ill patients and she has told us about her unforgettable experiences in Hospice activities.
“One woman, who was in her early 20’s, died of lung cancer. This woman should have had the chance to work and earn money, but because of smoking and drinking at such an early age, she suffered from this serious health problem. With her death nearing, the young lady decided to live a meaningful life and began to study hard for her next life. Meeting an early death is very sad, of course, but this young girl chose to leave our world with hope in mind. I’m very happy that she finished her life well. A lesson should be learned, though: If you want to live a healthy well-regulated life we should not smoke, and eat well.”
Having met many more ill people, Neung-haeng always makes an effort to heal the mental and physical side of all patients. She is a hospice activist and this is her life. ‘Hospice’ is medical service that offers continuous and holistic caring for terminally ill patients. Also, hospice activists help to reduce the pain of patients and their families.
As of 2000, the Jungtoh Foundation was the first independent Buddhist hospice facility. Despite its good intentions, however, the hospice facility was not welcomed by all local residents. The venerable Neung-haeng said, “I had a difficult time because local residents neglected and did not fully understand our hospice work. Many think that our hospice facility is an obnoxious place. Furthermore, many people think that it is not right to interfere with the lives of others. Those times were very hard for me, but these days many people agree with my work. Many have even donated without hesitation.” In spite of her difficulties, she never forgets to smile.
The venerable Neung-haeng published her second hospice story, This Moment, in 2010. The book retells her stories of her hospice activities. Na mun hui, a famous actress, said the book has helped her to realize the value of her own life. Neung-haeng explains, “This is a book that all people should read if they wish to have a healthy body and mind. Readers will gain a fuller understanding of their lives and eventual deaths because in the end we all have to face it. In addition, I hope many students will use this book as a useful tool for discussion.”
The venerable Neung-haeng also started ‘The Cheon-il-ae happy prayer campaign’. This campaign is a public campaign aimed to help those who are unhappy. Through prayer, people are able to share and display their happy emotions. Campaigners pray for world peace and security at 1 pm each day for three minutes. The fees to join the campaign will be used to construct the Jaje hospital (palliative hospital).
Neung-haeng has a message for all Dongguk university students, “Enlighten yourself! Live each moment with this realization.” In recent times with the Cheonan incident and a rash of suicides, death has cast a dark shadow over our society. Let us take the time to truly reflect on life and death.
Bang Hye-jung firstname.lastname@example.org
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