Archive for Funerals

A Child’s View of Dying

“Now I can have my television back,” the six-year old said.

Death has its rewards.

When I was a hospice chaplain, that’s what the youngest grandson of a patient declared soon after the death. From the mouth of babes, eh? “Unless you become like a child, you won’t enter the kingdom of God,” Jesus said. And it’s not just Christianity, for Buddha reportedly expressed, “The heart of a child is like that of Buddha.”

But a television?

All of us present chuckled when the youngster spoke of his entertainment plans. We laughed sadly—and joyfully—because of what had occurred a few minutes before . . . and what had been happening for quite a while. The grandfather had lived with the family for longer than his grandson’s lifespan: eight years. That meant adjustments for everyone. Sometimes the household had to be very quiet—hard for any kid. Trips to Disneyland were postponed. Friends couldn’t come over at certain times. Holidays were low-key.

In the final months of the grandfather’s life, with most of his time spent in a bed, he got to have the television in his room.

None of the sacrifices were easy for the six-year old or his nearly nine-year old brother. Read More →

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Where Do You Want to be Buried?

Where Dad is buried.

Where Dad and Mom were buried.

Will it be a slender plot of earth in a cemetery? Or ashes scattered?

My father-in-law’s ashes are buried under a mature shade tree in a church retreat center. Before those acres were developed for future kids and adults, he had been one of the key people on a committee to walk the property and recommend its purchase. Visiting his “final resting place” often means joining others who are playing together, strengthening their faith, and having a darn good time away from home for a week at camp.

Where do you want to be buried?

A member in a Wisconsin congregation left explicit directions about burial in the family plot at a tiny cemetery out in the country. He wanted a brief graveside service. And he’d begged his family: get me in the ground as soon as possible. He died in a January. As his pastor, I recall we delayed the service for several cold, cold moments because of a recent storm. The backhoe had struggled to break through the new snow and frozen ground to dig the grave. But he got his wish.

Where do you want to be buried? Read More →

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Answering . . . That Question

If given the choice of participating in only one of those two rituals for the remainder of my career, I’d choose funerals. But . . . why?

If given the choice of participating in only one of those two rituals for the remainder of my career, I’d choose funerals. But . . . why?

“What do you say when people ask how you can work in hospice?”

Near the end of a long Friday, and at the end of a tough week, a colleague posed that question.

That question. That question.

I won’t share the details of our conversation because—like everything in hospice—confidentiality is a priority. But I will tell you my co-worker had several demanding visits in a row with patients. Everyone with a job they enjoy has days like my colleague. But in hospice, the patients and clients you meet—the scared or angry person, the silent or talkative person, the openly sharing or mask-the-feelings person—are all dying. They will not get “better.” Their loved one, whether an infant or an octogenarian, won’t get better. And so you wonder if you truly helped them. You wonder if someone else might’ve said the “right” or “better” words. You refuse to use clichés or platitudes to bring comfort in a time of overwhelming crisis, but then it’s as if you have nothing to say. You walk into homes where a family’s world is falling apart and, before knocking on their door, you contemplate (for a selfish, exhausted moment) scurrying back to your car. Read More →

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