Eleven of my family members sat quietly awaiting the arrival of the funeral director. We were quiet, but tense. My father-in-law had been ill for some time, yet his death was sudden and caught us unprepared. His six capable, adult children suspended grief in their efforts to be responsible, helpful to their mother, and honoring to their father. Over the past year, the local children had become a support team and quite involved in their parents’ care. None of the local sons and daughters, however, had been named in any legal document. The tension-producing question was . . . Who’s in charge?
I was praying earnestly but silently when the funeral director entered the room. As he gave us his condolences, the tension seemed to grow even more intense. Once he opened his file and began explaining the detailed plans Conrad had made and paid for, we realized there would be no hurried decisions or large expenditures. All tension whooshed out of the room. Shoulders dropped. Breathing became normal.
Conrad’s pre-planning was a HUGE gift to his family. Sons and daughters were freed up to be creative in expressing their love and esteem for him . . . so a motorcycle escort was added to the package, and a detailed obituary that proclaimed his earlier days of racing. Shared love, memories, and even laugher took tension’s place. What a gift Conrad gave his family!
Jesus gave a similar gift to his people. On the cross, he named his disciple John as the one to care for his mother. Mary would not be overlooked in the confusion following his death and resurrection, nor was there a question as to who was in charge of her welfare. In the upper room discourse, Jesus also instructed his disciples about how they were to continue his ministry. While his followers did not initially hear or understand his directions, Jesus gave them, nonetheless, so that they could be followed later.
Like the disciples, however, many of us find it difficult to participate in discussions about death—especially our own. How can we, like Conrad, make our death easier on our families? The HOH HOPE Video (A free download at https://FinishLifeWell.org , under the Store tab) and the HOPE Workbook Section are designed to help us address the decisions surrounding the end of our lives—in the light of our hope in Christ. The key is remembering our death is not the end, but a transition to eternal life. For ourselves, we can focus on our heritage of hope; for our families, we have an opportunity to make one of life’s difficult moments much easier. We can give them the HUGE gift of pre-planning.
Final arrangements include the choice of a funeral home and probably a cemetery. If your family already has a burial plot or you are a veteran, you have additional options to consider. If you choose to be cremated and have your ashes spread elsewhere, you will not need a cemetery. As you know, the funeral home handles the body. What few realize is that the hospital personnel or Hospice people will ask your family who they should call for this service shortly after you breathe your last. If you have not done pre-planning, your family will be forced into research and decision-making at a most awkward time.
Making your final arrangements now in consideration of those you will leave behind—when you are not pressured or grieving—is not morbid but very loving and wise. You may pay for everything in advance as did Conrad, but it is not necessary to pay at the time you do your pre-planning. You may simply open a file with the funeral home recording all your preferences. The important thing is to make your decisions and communicate those choices to your people. Your Medical Representative and your Executor, those who will be in charge of your care and finances, can then follow your wishes. Like Conrad, you will eliminate confusion and potential conflict with the HUGE gift of pre-planning.
Scriptural Examples: The patriarchs’ (Jacob and Joseph) final arrangements or pre-planning are recorded in Genesis 49:29-32, Genesis 50:24-26 as well as their fulfillment in Genesis 50:1-15, Exodus 13:19, and Joshua 24:32. Interestingly, these men’s instructions to their families were also statements of faith in God’s promise to return his people to Israel. How might we make similar statements of faith with our final arrangements?
About that time Hezekiah became deathly ill, and the prophet Isaiah son of Amoz went to visit him. He gave the king this message: “This is what the Lord says: Set your affairs in order, for you are going to die. You will not recover from this illness.” 2 Kings 20:1, Isaiah 38:1