Archive for Decisions

What If Greed is More Important than Grief?

When a young pastor, I recall leaving a graveside service. Outwardly, I seemed calm and serious. Inwardly, I was berating myself for forgetting parts of the Lord’s Prayer.

I hardly knew the son and daughter of the recently deceased. They’d called my church, searching for a minister to help them in their “hour of need.” Now, with the simple service finished, the two siblings walked behind me. Without glancing back, I slowed to eavesdrop on their conversation. Were they exchanging snide criticisms about the stupid pastor who didn’t know the words to Christianity’s most famous prayer?

No. They were not.

They were arguing about their mother’s will and her possessions.

I had forgotten the Lord’s Prayer’s final sentences. How embarrassing! At the open grave of a stranger, with a handful of her family that I’d only met in one meeting prior to the service, I’d shut my Book of Worship, and then invited the mourners to pray with me. It was just the Lord’s Prayer. They were words I’d memorized as a kid in Sunday school and had recited every Sunday (and more) throughout my life. But it was one of my first graveside services. I was nervous. I blanked. Faking a few final mumbled words, I hurried to the “Amen.”

The family didn’t know me. They also likely didn’t know any formal prayers, including the “one Jesus taught his disciples to say.” Like most pastors, I occasionally received calls from “strangers” asking for help with a funeral or wedding. I met twice with this family: once to plan the service (“Mother just wanted a few words and a prayer, pastor.”) and once at the grave.

I learned a couple of things that day. Read More →

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The Best Time to Consider Hospice is ______

When is the right time to ask about hospice?

Isn’t that the hardest of questions? For a potential hospice patient, the “right” or “best” time answer seems like a grim brew of unsettling and unfair choices.

Some would prefer their doctors provide the answer. Though there are exceptions, most doctors have spent scant time in training about “end of life” concerns. The lengthy education for a medical degree doesn’t leave much room in the schedule for learning about the dying and death of patients. Doctors, regardless of her or his specialty, are oriented toward healings, hopes, cures, and the next best option to try. It’s nearly impossible for physicians to view hospice as anything other than “giving up.” Who wants a doctor that will “give up” on you?

There are patients that secretly—or not so secretly—want a family member to make decisions about hospice. Do you truly want the people who blindly love you, who want you to “live forever,” and who frequently don’t understand the medical situation (with its strange terminology and complex treatments) to make your decisions? It’s nearly impossible for many family and friends to view hospice as anything other than a personal version of the “end of the world.” In presidential politics, we laugh about (and are deadly serious about) which candidate we want in the Oval Office in the awful event of nuclear war. Who, in any family, wants to trigger the “apocalypse” for a loved one?

But I will give you an answer. Read More →

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Dying in California Has a New Option

A new path to consider...

A new path to consider…

California residents with a terminal illness have a new choice.

Starting on June 9, 2016 the End of Life Option Act (EOLOA)* offers a death with dignity.

No it doesn’t!

It’s suicide sugarcoated with clever phrases. Taking your life is immoral, unethical, and—especially for people of faith—a sin of immense proportions.

Without a doubt, the EOLOA will prompt varied reactions: embraced, vilified, or misunderstood. But it is the law.

Oregon became the first state to legally allow terminally ill patients to end their lives with doctor-prescribed medication in 1997. I lived in Oregon when Measure 16’s Death with Dignity Act appeared on the 1994 ballot. After considerable prayer and thought, I voted against the measure. It passed with 51% of the vote (and was later affirmed by 60% of the voters).

My “no” vote reflected reluctance about giving doctors so much control. Rationally, I understand. Doctors are trained to objectively examine patients. Yes, human mistakes happen, but a physician’s conclusion informed by tests, technology, and experiences are as good as we can get for a diagnosis. Nonetheless, another side of me didn’t want this decision to prioritize the medical. Death is a natural part of life. It is often better understood emotionally and spiritually.

With the EOLOA, patients are required only to inform physicians of their plans. No one else will know a patient’s intentions unless she or he chooses to share it. Read More →

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