Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

The Secrets the Dead Whisper in my Ear…

Written by: on April 8, 2024

A Good Kill?  A Good Death? They are connected and cannot be severed in my mind.  A Bad Kill, a good death? A good kill, a bad death?  It seems to me that Just war is in the nuance of those connections. For myself sitting in my lovely home, writing a doctoral blog on an intelligent book with a full tummy and all my needs met is privilege and makes thinking on war abstract, though we’ve all lived through war, with some of us affected more personally than others. With every good kill, regardless of if it’s just, or bad or wrong, there is a life that has ended. A person with parents, someone who loves or loved them, a soul created in the image of God behind that kill.  I just want to say it and put that out there with courage. This book is about death (says the hospice chaplain).

 While reading Marc LiVecches’ book The Good Kill, the phrase “Moral Injury” stood out to me.  I have heard this phrase and felt it in the post-pandemic world in healthcare.  I have haunting thoughts of walking through the hallways of facilities with all of us clinicians wearing reused N-95 masks and full gowns and gloves and coming out of the facilities whipping that mask off only to feel the scabbed sore on the bridge of the nose rubbed raw.  Facilitating video calls with families as their loved one lay dying alone.  This is trauma, this is moral injury and if you are wondering about healthcare and why so many places are short staffed, I believe it’s due to this moral injury.

LiVecches definition of Moral injury has been noted to be similar to “Brett Litz’s definition of ‘the lasting psychological, biological, spiritual, behavioural, and social impact of perpetrating, failing to prevent, or bearing witness to acts that transgress deeply held moral beliefs and expectations”.[1]  We have long known the effects of war have long-lasting impact on those who serve.  My grandfather was in a tank in the second wave of the battle of the bulge.  He hardly ever spoke on the war but someone in the family was able to hear from him before he died that he had deep trauma from after the war when he was asked to stay back and translate the interrogations as he was fluent in German.  He said he saw awful things being done to another human being.  I can’t imagine what he carried to the grave.

I also have had many veteran patients who at end of life need to tell someone what they experience and ask for forgiveness.  I’ve had a life long strong Catholic man in tears tell me a secret of knowing he has shot a villager woman as he was strafing a pathway for his fellow soldiers.  This would be called collateral damage, and I believe he held that secret his whole life and he died having told one person.  I have preached here before that those secrets, those moral injuries we experience cannot stay shoved down to your own death, they will find a way out.  In the case of number of vets, it is not being able to re-enter in life pre-enlistment or pre-draft, its turning to addictions and mental illness.  I almost hesitate to write this statement, but I see our healthcare workers and I’d wager law enforcement and first responders headed towards a similar PTSD moral injury space.

LiVecche bravely takes on making distinctions between moral injury and our connection to how we see the need for certain types of war and connecting it to love.  He states “To link this moral vision to moral injury, I will draw on the classical imagination of C. S. Lewis and draft a portrait of the just warrior as a marbling of the characteristics of Venus and Mars—the personifications of love and war, respectively. Such a union of dispositions demonstrates the possibility of attending to both the necessity of war and the requirements of love without contradiction.”[2]

Once again, I am left to finish a topic such as this torn. On one hand I believe in the statement “all it takes for evil to endure is for good men to stand by and do nothing”. [3] And on a slightly stronger side I believe we need to fight for peace.  Now I know I used the word fight which I think illustrates LiVecches’ point, that there is a morality to fight for what is right, and what is more just than peace. Ugh! Around and around, we go.

Let me whisper in your ear a blessing for peace!


As the fever of day calms towards twilight

May all that is strained in us come to ease.

We pray for all who suffered violence today,

May an unexpected serenity surprise them.

For those who risk their lives each day for peace,

May their hearts glimpse providence at the heart of history.

That those who make riches from violence and war

Might hear in their dreams the cries of the lost.

That we might see through our fear of each other

A new vision to heal our fatal attraction to aggression.

That those who enjoy the privilege of peace

Might not forget their tormented brothers and sisters.

That the wolf might lie down with the lamb,

That our swords be beaten into ploughshares

And no hurt or harm be done

Anywhere along the holy mountain.

John O’Donohue, Irish poet and philosopher

From the book, Benedictus

[1] Hawksley, Theodora. Book Review of The Good Kill: Just War and Moral Injury.  https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/09539468231154778d?icid=int.sj-full-text.similar-articles.7

[2] LiVecche, Marc, and Timothy S. Mallard, The Good Kill: Just War and Moral Injury (New York, 2021; online edn, Oxford Academic, 22 Apr. 2021), https://doi-org.georgefox.idm.oclc.org/10.1093/oso/9780197515808.001.0001, accessed 26 Mar. 2024.

[3] Quote attributed to John Stuart Mill, https://www.openculture.com/2016/03/edmund-burkeon-in-action.html

About the Author


Jana Dluehosh

Jana serves as a Spiritual Care Supervisor for Signature Hospice in Portland, OR. She chairs the corporate Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging committee as well as presents and consults with chronically ill patients on addressing Quality of Life versus and alongside Medical treatment. She has trained as a World Religions and Enneagram Spiritual Director through an Anam Cara apprenticeship through the Sacred Art of Living center in Bend, OR. Jana utilizes a Celtic Spirituality approach toward life as a way to find common ground with diverse populations and faith traditions. She has mentored nursing students for several years at the University of Portland in a class called Theological Perspectives on Suffering and Death, and has taught in the Graduate Counseling program at Portland Seminary in the Trauma Certificate program on Grief.

One response to “The Secrets the Dead Whisper in my Ear…”

  1. mm Russell Chun says:

    Hi Jana,

    You wrote, “I almost hesitate to write this statement, but I see our healthcare workers and I’d wager law enforcement and first responders headed towards a similar PTSD moral injury space.”

    When I was in South Africa, I met with an old friend who said that whenever there is loss, that trauma can occur. Some push through the grief and for others it haunts them. Ahhh….Grief.

    I absolutely agree with you that first responders, ER workers, police all suffer these moments of grief of Moral bruising.

    Nice post.


Leave a Reply