A friend asked me about this piece. I wrote it a few years back while talking to an engineer friend who was then trying to prepare for the end of his life. He kept asking me, “Gary, how do I KNOW I’m ready to die.” And I kept answering with pastoral comfort about facing death, quoting verses, and my typical caring responses. When I got home, I expressed my sense of frustration. “I don’t think I answered his question, because he kept re-asking it.”
Vickie said, “Gary, he wants a punch list. He’s an engineer (my wife’s father was an engineer), he wants a list of things to do.” Well, Myers Briggs, you did it again. So I set about a list, and she helped me with it. I have shared this often with my deacons in the church, with individuals, and it seemed useful to share it here if it helps. This is my list, so yours may be a little different, and it certainly isn’t exhaustive, but I know this: if you spend time preparing for death, you will really be prepared anew for life.
Getting Prepared to Die—and to Live
Gary and Vickie Furr
GETTING PREPARED PERSONALLY AND IN MY RELATIONSHIPS
- My family relationships—are they in good order?
- Have I given verbal and nonverbal affirmations and expressions of love?
- Have I resolved hurts and miscommunications?
- Have others had the chance to say to me what they need to say?
- Have I acknowledged important friendships?
- Have I mended broken friendships that can be repaired with a note, visit or phone call?
- Have I expressed my feelings to my spouse openly? Have we resolved and talked through unfinished business?
- Have I said the “Four Most Important Things” to the people in my life?
- Please forgive me
- I forgive you
- Thank you
- I love you
GETTING PREPARED FINANCIALLY
- Are my business and financial affairs in order?
- Do my family members understand them and what they will need to do and how to carry on without me?
- Have I made a list of those things and informed them of important documents, my will, investments, insurance policies, tax information and safety deposit box? A copy for my spouse, one for the children and one if needed for our attorney.
- Are all final wishes are written down, including any sentimental or special items going to specific family members? Be very specific.
- Have I written a clear plan for my spouse to make sure he or she understands her financial security after I am gone? This will offer comfort and relieve the sense of financial stress.
- Do I have will? Is it clearly understood and protected from the emotional issues of family members? Do I have a truly impartial person to handle the execution of that will?
- Is everything in good working order in our house, our car(s), are there long-term issues that need to be addressed now that will be more difficult on my spouse later?
- Do I have a plan for transition from independent living to help and health limitations?
GETTING PREPARED FOR DYING AND DEATH
- Have I made preparations for the process of dying?
- Do my loved ones understand my wishes regarding end of life decisions, going to hospice, etc.?
- Do I have end of life directives easily found and known to family?
- Do my loved ones have authority to act with power of attorney?
- Just as importantly, have I spoken to them about my wishes in the case of continuing or discontinuing extraordinary treatment?
- Have I selected a funeral home and what will be done with my body–cremation or burial, donate organs, donate body to science?
- Have I made prearrangements with the funeral home?
- Have as many decisions been made as possible—plots, casket, vault, memorial service or traditional funeral, open or closed casket and when, who will give the eulogy, music, etc? Have I made specific funeral plans and filed them with the pastor?
- Have I made a list of names, phone numbers and email addresses of all those to be notified when I die?
GETTING PREPARED SPIRITUALLY
- Am I at peace with God? Have I trusted my life over to God?
- NRS Proverbs 3:5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight. What does this really mean to me? How do I experience it?
- Do I need help working through my questions about the faith?
- Do I carry anger toward God? The church? People who claim to be the faith community? What can I do to resolve it?
- Assurance and peace with God—How do I know these things to be true? Albert Outler, the Methodist Quadrilateral of John Wesley. Baptists normally emphasize only scripture, but as known by the Holy Spirit, studied in the congregation. Truthfully, all of these below are part of our collection of reassurance of faith.
- Scripture – the Holy Bible (Old and New Testaments)
- Tradition – the two millennia history of the Christian Church
- Reason – rational thinking and sensible interpretation
- Experience – a Christian’s personal and communal journey in Christ
- A clear conscience–are there yet unresolved issues between myself and another? Do I need to ask forgiveness of another? Do I need to make amends to them?
- Have I made confession of my sins to God? Sometimes it is necessary to do this with a trusted pastor or spiritual friend. Do I need to make amends for spiritual damage and hurt I have caused to someone else’s spiritual life?
- Have I told my love ones about my faith in Christ? My life story? What I believe?
- Are there things I once told myself I would do for the Lord I left undone? Have I made peace with tasks I felt called to do? With what I have to leave undone?
- Do I need to forgive someone for the hurt they inflicted on me? Can we be reconciled? If not, can I make it known to God and ask for help in turning it over to Him?
- Do I need to let some things go—ministries, responsibilities, position or other life responsibilities because it is time to give it to another?
- Have I blessed people I need to bless?
- Legacy gifts-is there something I have felt led to give or invest in or help that can live on after me? Have I taken care of extending my stewardship through others by blessing them to take my place, giving legacy gifts in my will, or otherwise using my death as another occasion to bear witness to God in my life?
- Are there things I own to give away that would be meaningful to others?
Scriptures for Reflection
NRS John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.
NRS John 3:17 “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
NRS John 14:1 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. 2 In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also.
NRS Galatians 2:20 and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
NRS Ephesians 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God– 9 not the result of works, so that no one may boast.
NRS Romans 10:9 because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
NRS Romans 8:38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
NRS 1 Thessalonians 4:17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air; and so we will be with the Lord forever
NRS 1 Peter 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you,
Philippians 3:20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and it is from there that we are expecting a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. 21 He will transform the body of our humiliation that it may be conformed to the body of his glory, by the power that also enables him to make all things subject to himself. Philippians 4:1 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, my beloved
NRS 1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
1 John 4:15 God abides in those who confess that Jesus is the Son of God, and they abide in God.