AT THE END . . .
All in all we had a wonderful day on Easter Sunday. I took a rare “day off” after church and spent the afternoon napping and watching a movie with the kids. Then, ham for dinner. Who could ask for more? It wasn’t until bedtime that things changed. We received a phone call from a Florida hospital that my husband’s stepsister had passed away. Kathy had lived there for many years, and the nurse wanted to know, as next of kin, what arrangements we wanted to make.
My mom used to joke around a lot about her funeral. She and a friend threaten to bring smelly (not in a good way) flowers to each other’s funerals, and they would laugh and laugh. When the time came, however, Mom had left only a few instructions for us. Dad, as well, didn’t really want to talk about last things very much. It was as if speaking about it would make it more real, but ignoring it would keep death away.
Jesus gave instructions to His disciples about his death and his resurrection. He talked about it regularly, and the disciples did not want to hear it. They could not understand why he had to die, and I suppose they refused to talk about it to try to keep it from happening, as well.
Growing up in Pittsburgh, funerals were a several-day affair. The viewings lasted at least three days, with the funeral and ensuing luncheon bringing the time to a close. While I agree that three days was a long time, I remember as a young child spending time with family members and friends of the family, talking about our loved ones, reminiscing about their lives (for good and bad), and processing through the grief. It was a time of therapy for all concerned.
I know they may not want to hear it, but this is what I hope to happen when Christ calls me. I want my family to know that I am not in pain and have found joy unspeakable and full of glory. I want my children to know that I have loved them with a fierce love and will never stop loving them. I want those around me to know that I am thankful for their love and support, and if I am at odds with anyone at all, I want them to know that there is no lasting animosity on my part and that I ask for forgiveness, as well.
Don’t waste time with “what if’s” and what could have been. It isn’t and cannot be changed. Whether caused by the natural progression of illness or by tragic circumstance, death will have served to bring me to a place of incredible beauty and rest. I have had a wonderful life, especially since I have known Christ. No regrets. Celebrate with me that I am at peace. Work through your grief and cry when you need to, but be sure to laugh, too. Remember all the crazy things I have done and how I could hardly get anywhere on time. Think about the good things and celebrate them along with your tears.
And when you sit in the sanctuary for that final service, I want you to know that I will be worshiping with you. I want it to be a true service of worship to our God and Creator, to Jesus my Savior, and presided over by our Comforter and Strength, the Holy Spirit. Sing songs of faith and assurance, such as “It Is Well with My Soul” and “He Lives.” Read Scripture about living in God’s presence. Don’t wear black because of my passing. Celebrate the amazing creativity of God. And most importantly, be sure everyone present knows that they can have the same joy in Christ that I experienced.
Are you ready for the eventual day when you spiritually will leave this earth? First of all, confess your sins and faults to God, who forgives without looking back. Next, live each day saying the things that need to be said, comforting or maybe stern. You may not have another chance. Be sure your friends and family know that you love them and that you love God most of all. Keep your relationships current and at peace as much as is possible so those who remain do not carry guilt or grieve unnecessarily.
How do you want to say goodbye when you are leaving? Of course, you won’t be able to “speak” to anyone, to give a final hug and encouragement, but you can say goodbye by making plans and provisions. A few years ago a friend’s husband died unexpectedly, and since that time there have been ongoing lawsuits by his first family regarding his estate, which has caused tremendous pain and anguish for my friend. She finds herself getting angry at her late husband for not taking care of these issues beforehand.
Don’t do that to your family members. It really isn’t fair for you to leave a jigsaw puzzle behind while you are celebrating with the angels. Please make a will so your family knows how to dispose of your earthly things. Write everything down, no matter how young you are. Talk about your wishes and be sure to update your beneficiaries on insurance, retirement, and on any accounts you may have.
Make sure your family knows what you want for your final earthly worship service. It will help them as they walk through the hours of shock and grief, trying to make arrangements. Be sure they know your favorite songs and Bible verses. Write it all down; give a copy to your pastor and keep a copy in your own files at home. Update it regularly.
A life well-lived includes plans for the future and for the end of life. Talk to your pastor, or if you don’t have one, talk to a funeral director. It isn’t morbid; it is kind and loving! I have a worksheet available that can help you make these plans. E-mail or drop me a note to get a copy. Better yet, drop by Ebenezer next Sunday! I think you will be glad you did!
Mary Kay Glunt, Pastor
Ebenezer Presbyterian Church