It’s a series of conversations no-one wants to have. But it’s one that most of us will face at some point in our lives. Death is inevitable (unless Jesus returns) and there will come a moment when we need to prepare ourselves or someone we love for the reality of a failing body and their new life with Christ to come. They’re conversations that are unlikely to flow with ease – talks that may need many tissues at hand – but ones that can bring comfort and hope to the most desperate of circumstances, both to those on the verge of death and those about to be left behind.
They’re conversations that we need to enter into prayerfully. A full measure of the wisdom and love of God will be needed. Conversations to enter into gently too – this is no simple item on a “to-do” list, it’s a precious time of preparation for the biggest change a human being can ever face. It’s one to enter into strategically though – there are topics to discuss, subjects that need to be raised, if people are to orientate their hearts and minds aright.
There are the emotional subjects to broach: How are you feeling? What is scaring you right now? What would help make this time a little easier? What are your regrets? Your hopes? Do you know you are loved, appreciated – are going to be missed?
There are the profoundly practical too: What hymns would you like at your funeral? Any passages of Scripture that you would like to be read? What charity can we support – or would you prefer flowers? Would you like to donate your organs – for transplant or medical research? Can you remind me where you put your will, your birth certificate, your address book and more … ?
It’s important not to forget the physical: How would you like your pain to be moderated in the coming weeks or days? Would it be better to be in a hospice or at home? Are there any last trips you would like to make? Is there a point you want “do not resuscitate” written on your notes? Shall we spend a little time just holding hands, embracing one another, sitting close in the quietness?
Maybe even more important not to forget is the relational: Is there anything you would like to do to help those left behind prepare for your death? Any messages of love – any encouragements to keep going? Can there be a time where we simply appreciate one another, relive precious memories, look at photographs of times gone by? Can the people left behind be given permission to know that it’s OK to be happy again – once the grieving is done?
Of course, there is the spiritual too. Do you remember the wonder of grace? Shall we reflect on the character of the God you are soon to see face to face? Can we read a Psalm – or a Gospel – together? Do you know how safe you are in his loving arms? (Or, for those who don’t yet believe, do you want to know the offer of safety that the Lord is holding out to you right now?) Can you begin to glimpse how wonderful eternal bliss is going to be? Are you happy to accept God’s loving will for you, even in your death? Can we listen to a favourite hymn? Can I pray for you – will you pray for me?
They’re the kind of conversations that can bring light and hope into dark places. The kind of conversations that air fears and put pain into perspective. But more than anything they are the kinds of conversations that help people dwell afresh on wonderful truths that show that death is not the end – merely the next step in our beautiful, eternal journey with the Lord.
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.” John 14:1-4