Thoughts When Life Ends Too Soon

Talking about Your Own End of Life

Bereavement. Expired. Departed this life. Passed Away. The End. The Grim Reaper. Kick the bucket. Death. We use so many euphemisms to describe the end of life for others, and so carefully avoid talking about our own death.  

 A few weeks ago at work, the ambulance brought in a lady my age who had suffered a heart attack at home and in spite of everyone’s best efforts she did not survive, (oops there’s another one!). She was MY age. After everything was done that we could do for the patient, and her shocked, grieving family, I was left with paperwork and my thoughts about how someone MY age could die suddenly like that. The distressing thing is that people die every day, and they aren’t all old people.  Death can come for us in the prime of life or when we are crusty and ancient. The hardest deaths are those where everyone is completely unprepared, with no warning and no way to get ready in heart and mind. Those deaths will always be part of the work we do in healthcare and ministry, but it behooves us all to talk about what we want for our own end of life care and after with our loved ones while we still can. And it should happen no matter what age you are right now.

The rest of this post is a letter I recently wrote my family to help them when that day inevitably arrives and my husband or I breathe our last.  I urge you to let it help you make your own decisions and find a way to discuss them with your loved ones.

Dear Sons,

Although it is not easy to talk about death, your dad and I have a few things we would like you to know before that inevitable day arrives when one or both of us go to be with the Lord, leaving this physical body behind.

We do not want undue life support such as intubation and ventilators, CPR or drugs to try and extend life beyond reasonable hope. It is ok to let us go.

Please allow yourselves to grieve. Losing a parent is a difficult life event and you will feel the loss for a long while. I remember how strange it felt when your granddad and then your grandma passed away. It was hard and painful, yet also kind of a relief because both of them had reached that point, with the strokes that they had suffered, that there was no hope of recovery. But remember also, that you don’t need to grieve as those who have no hope, because in the Lord this body may be asleep but we are present with Jesus…1Thessalonians 4:13

So please sit with us while we die. Read Scripture, pray, talk to us as we are fading. It will help you to be there too.

A simple funeral or graveside service is enough. Just be sure the gospel is preached clearly and completely so everyone there has a chance to hear the truth of God’s grace toward sinners. You can skip the eulogies, and focus on Christ and His goodness.

As far as burial goes, we would prefer a natural burial with no embalming, no casket. There are now places where a body can be laid to rest in a wicker or pine box and shroud, simply and naturally allowed to return to dust.  Many of the old pioneer graveyards will allow it. If its winter and that is not possible, cremation is also good. If you do that, please put our ashes in an urn that can then have a tree planted in it. When the time is right, plant the tree by a river or lake or somewhere beautiful that you like.

Please do not spend much money on caskets, embalming and all the other commercial funeral preparations. Don’t let the funeral director guilt you into all that. Neither of us wants that at all.

Here are a couple of websites with more information on natural burial.

https://www.asacredmoment.com/green-burial/

https://www.passagesinternational.com/eco-friendly-caskets/willow-carrier-and-shrouds/

https://urnabios.com/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natural_burial

While I know this all seems a little morbid, death is part of life. I have seen too many families struggle when a loved one passes away because they haven’t thought these things through.  We hope this helps you understand our wishes, and that it makes that difficult time a little easier for you.

Let’s talk about this sometime. The one thing we want you each to know is that we love you, and we are so very proud of the fine men you have grown into.

Love – Mom and Dad

Potters and Clay

But now, O Lord, You are our Father, we are the clay, and You are our potter; All of us are the work of Your hand. Isaiah 64:8

Clay is an amazing substance. It looks and feels just like sticky mud, but it can be formed into vessels of beauty and utility.  The more skilled the potter, the more beauty and usefulness the vessel will possess in the end.  But it starts out as a lump of sticky goo that has to be refined by the hand of the potter.  There are many who have never seen the beginning point of a beautiful bowl or mug, only the end. The process to get to the lovely work of art was messy, dirty, and hard.

Most potters today are able to buy their clay in a refined form, already cleaned, pugged and ready to throw. Before modern clay manufacturing, the potter had to know clay from dirt, know where it was, and how to clean it. Beautiful pots come from a starting place of clay that was mixed with dirt, rocks plant debris, and other rubble.  The ancient potter went through many steps to develop a good clay that would produce the kind of pots she wanted.

Ancient people would have read Isaiah 64:8 and immediately realized that being compared to a lump of clay in the potter’s hand involved much cleaning and refining before the vessel could even be formed.  As a potter, God works in our lives granting repentance from sin. That His Spirit grows in us a desire to be cleansed of all the dirt and debris that polluted us before we became vessels of His is beautiful work in our lives. He knows exactly where the sin lies, and works through His Spirit to clean it out. It’s not always, or even usually, pleasant to have the junk pulled out of our lives, but like clay, we will never be the vessel the potter intends until the clay is cleaned and ready to be worked.

There are generally 3 kinds of clay that a potter ends up with.

  • First is a clay body that is too soft. When you try to throw it on the wheel, it won’t hold its shape, but slumps or falls apart. As Christians, we can be like this when the first sign of trouble makes us lose our focus on God and what He is doing in our lives. We can only see the trial, the temptation or the suffering. We lose sight of the magnificent truth that we see in Rom 8:35-39 “Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?… 37 But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”. A piece of clay that is too soft will be set aside to dry for a time and then be reworked into the vessel the potter wants.  For a true believer, being set aside as difficult as any trial that comes from the outside.  But be sure, if you are a true child of the Potter, He is not done with you yet! Jeremiah 18:4 says “ But the vessel that he was making of clay was spoiled in the hand of the potter; so he remade it into another vessel, as it pleased the potter to make”

 

  • The next kind of clay is hard. It is too dry and has become completely resistant to becoming what the potter wants to make it into. When you throw it on the wheel it is stiff and impossible to shape or mold. Oh Christian, do not become this lump of clay! It is much more difficult to get water back into a dry, leathery piece of clay, than it is to dry out the piece that is too soft. In fact, very often the entire lump has to be allowed to dry completely before it can be put back in water and made usable again. This is the piece of clay that says “You turn [things] around! Shall the potter be considered as equal with the clay, That what is made would say to its maker, “He did not make me”; Or what is formed say to him who formed it, “He has no understanding”? Isa 29:16. This clay represents those who arrogantly refuse God’s design on their lives, believing that they know what they want and how to get it.

 

  • The perfect piece of clay is one that is strong enough to hold its shape, yet pliable enough to be molded into the vessel the potter wants to shape. This lump of clay is joyful, trusting in the potter’s hand. As you begin to shape it, it follows the guidance of the master, allowing itself to grow into the beautiful vessel the potter intends. Oh, there is pressure, no doubt, but this piece of clay becomes like an extension of the Potter, created into the image of the One who made it. What could be lovelier than that?