Random Thoughts of a Disordered Mind


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Have You Written Your Obituary?

There are three things that you can do now to make things easier for your family when you die. You don’t need to be sick to do them – in fact, it’s better to do these while you’re healthy and have time to think and plan. You can do them in any order. But trust me on this: taking the time to do these three things is a gift to your loved ones.

In Memory OfFirst, write your obituary. You’ve read many of them and if you haven’t, just pull up any local paper and read a bunch. Some of them are boring and just have name, birth and death dates, spouse, children. My favorite obituaries, though, tell me who the person was, what their passions were, what made their lives better. My dad read to first graders for over 20 years and you can bet that will be in his obituary. I read a wonderful one years ago about a 102-year old woman known for her pie baking – I knew who she was after reading it. Include basic information but go beyond it to tell people who you are and why you mattered. Pick a good picture for the obituary, too, preferably one that looks like you as a mature person and not the army picture if you are in your 70’s.

Second, plan your funeral or memorial service and give a copy of what you decide to your church office as well as your own files. A funeral service is conducted when the body is present; when it’s not, as in the case with cremation, there is a memorial service. Different religious faiths and denominations have structure or liturgy for their services, but it’s up to the family – to you – to select scriptures or readings to be included, and to decide on music that’s significant.

This doesn’t have to be hard! There are websites with ideas, such as 30 Top Funeral Bible Verses. Hymnals and prayer books also have suggested music and scripture that’s appropriate. Do you want to have a choir sing, or maybe someone sing a solo? Write it down!  Nothing is written in stone and it can be changed as you change and want something else. Also remember that a memorial service is for the living, so if your family decides on something else, that’s okay, too. But at least they will know what you want, and that will help enormously.

TombstoneFinally, plan what happens to your body. Do you want to be cremated or buried? Do you know where the body/ashes will be interred?  Sit down with a funeral home (or several, to decide on one), and make plans. Even better, prepay it to lock in prices (they call this “pre-need arrangements”).  Your family won’t have to do anything when you die except call the funeral home and meet to review what has already been arranged.

I work in a church office and deal with memorial services and grieving families all the time. I’ve seen what a difference it is for them when these three things have been planned in advance. Make thoughtful decisions about what you want, write them down, and make sure your family and your religious home have copies. It might be the best gift you can leave them.


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What I Believe

Stained glass angelThe mother of one of my colleagues died last weekend. Although I never met her, J told me lots about her mom, both the woman she was and the medical problems she had been facing in the last months.

I went to the wake last night, a little wet around the edges since I went to water aerobics first, and paid my respects to my friend and her family. Wakes make me uncomfortable and are so stilted, yet they are the place where people talk with each other and share memories and verbal support.

This morning was the funeral. I have to admit that, as weird as it sounds, I like funerals. They have a place in the ritual of endings and closure and give the living a place to be comforted with structure and words of faith. Those who attend become The Church in a very concrete way.

When I lived in Boston, my choir sang for quite a number of funerals and I know that liturgy and words of the Episcopal service – but all funeral services are similar. In my tradition, death is named and not turned into euphemistic “passing” which doesn’t fool anyone. It’s important to hear and know both that death is real and that there is life after death.

That is what I believe – that this life is not the end of who we are, that there is a God who is loving and waiting for us when we die. There is no guarantee that life will be easy and being happy and content is up to us. God isn’t going to sit around to strew the path with roses, money and good health.

I believe in free will; God isn’t going to make me do anything or predetermine the choices I make. But He’s not going to prevent bad things from happening, either. What we are promised is that we will not be alone as we walk through our life – and we are not alone in our death, either.

Going to the funeral brought it home again. I was there to be part of the body of Christ, to support my friend and honor her mother. But I was also comforted myself, hearing the familiar words of the lessons and rituals, and singing with a full heart:

I am the bread of life
He who comes to Me shall not hunger
He who believes in Me shall not thirst
No one can come to Me
Unless the Father draw him

And I will raise him up
And I will raise him up
And I will raise him up on the last day

The bread that I will give
Is My flesh for the life of the world
And he who eats of this bread
He shall live for ever
He shall live for ever

Unless you eat
Of the flesh of the Son of Man
And drink of His blood
And drink of His blood
You shall not have life within you

I am the resurrection
I am the life
He who believes in Me
Even if he die
He shall live for ever

Yes, Lord, we believe
That You are the Christ
The Son of God
Who has come
Into the world

And I will raise him up
And I will raise him up
And I will raise him up on the last day

© 1971 G. I. A. Publications