Fortress Press

Befriending the North Wind: Children, Moral Agency, and the Good Death

Befriending the North Wind

Children, Moral Agency, and the Good Death

Robyn Boeré (Author)


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The death of a child horrifies. We recoil at its mention. Images of dead or dying children impose themselves on our attention in ways that challenge us to change. Yet the topic of dying children is studiously avoided. When we do take notice, we paint children as victims, innocent of both blame and agency, passive in the face of suffering. Children die secluded in homes and hospitals, allowing society to carry on as though it were not happening.

Befriending the North Wind is about the moral lives of children and their agency in decisions about death. Our failure to be honest and open about the death of children hinders us from addressing their needs and confronting the sources of their suffering. This failure only adds to their suffering. Dying children often feel ignored, overlooked, and unable to exercise their agency to ameliorate their situation.

Befriending the North Wind presents a reconstruction of our understanding of human nature in light of the dimensions of human meaning that children reveal and the new horizons they open to us. It asserts that children can die a good death and that they can and should have a voice in their end-of-life care. This agency is grounded in their ability to make meaning, to act, to imitate, to use language creatively, to grasp a plurality of meanings, to reach judgments, to contribute to the meanings of others and to shape their understanding. Children are moral agents. We grown-ups need to humble ourselves and listen.

  • Publisher Fortress Press
  • Format Paperback
  • ISBN 9781506481838
  • eBook ISBN 9781506481845
  • Dimensions 6 x 9
  • Pages 209
  • Publication Date November 14, 2023


Weaving insights from philosophy, theology, anthropology, developmental psychology, and pediatrics into a nuanced account of the moral agency of children, Robyn Boeré has authored a book of exceptional wisdom and sensitivity. In paying attention to what dying children actually say and do rather than forcing upon them the rickety bioethical principles of a society that fears death and worships autonomy, Boeré shows what children can teach adults about being interdependent creatures made in God's image. As a pediatrician and parent, I highly recommend Befriending the North Wind to anyone who cares about the moral and spiritual lives of children.

Brian Volck, MD, MFA, MAT, coauthor of Reclaiming the Body: Christians and the Faithful Use of Modern Medicine and author of Attending Others: A Doctor's Education in Bodies and Words

I can think of no higher praise for Robyn Boeré's Befriending the North Wind than to say it is a lovely book, not simply because of the effortlessness with which the author writes about the stories of George McDonald, but also because of the opportunity she affords readers to change the way they see and speak about life and death, not just of children but also of themselves. By drawing on the stories of Jesus and children in the Gospels and Saint Paul's use of familial metaphors to describe the relationship of the baptized to the triune God, Boeré makes the daring claim that "childness is humanness." Recognizing the moral agency of children opens the possibility of seeing them not simply as capable of shaping their own living and dying, but as exemplars of dying well. Insofar as the goal of Christian discipleship is to live as a child of God, she concludes, "we should all die as children."

Joel James Shuman, professor of theology, King's College, Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania