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.
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.
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