Life … death … life


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Born to live
I believe we are born to live life to its fullest. We are to enjoy this life. We are to indulge in this life with other people — friends and companions and colleagues.
We are to learn how to have a rewarding individual life.

Living life
Enjoy the wonders of life. Enjoy the seasons from the dead of winter to the blossoming of life in plants and birds and animals. Enjoy the life we have in our communities. Our cities and groups can help us find life to its fullest. Live life to its fullest with other people — colleagues and neighbors and friends. Whether you are an extrovert who reaches out to be with others or an introvert, make the most of life. Live life to the fullest within yourself and with others.

Death too young
Jonathan Kozol wrote Death at an Early Age that is based on research in slum schools, which shows how many children never have the chance to live an abundant life. Some comfortable Americans have interesting ways to ignore reality and paraphrase Marie Antoinette's, "Let them eat cake." Let's make the American vision become reality for all children!

When life begins to end
What happens when life begins to end? That ending can begin at any time. For some illnesses steal in to rob us of what we want in life. For many stricken with illness modern medical care means healing and new life. Wrecks or accidents bring a jarring end to life, or sentence us to long hospitalization, therapies, or nursing homes. For others life’s ending is gradual. How do you react? Some fight back with careful diets, exercise, yoga, and therapies. Others give up. Fundamentally, we must accept our situations, both the facts of illness and possibilities for healing and wholeness. Be the most you can be and do in your situation. Remember that for the alcoholic accepting their alcoholism is the beginning of new life with A.A. Accepting our capabilities and state of health can be the beginning of renewed life.

Heaven is most like my soulmate and I enfolding each others’ arms and bodies in loving respect, whether looking together at an awesome natural scene or fixing a meal and pausing to hug and kiss before returning to tomatoes and potatoes or in bed in the ultimate mutual embrace. In all these rather than emphasizing place or time, there is focus, love, deep respect, and mutual interaction. It is mellow from the vintage-like aging we experienced over fifty years of life together — with each other, with children, with friends, with this good earth, with an ultimate One who is all of these gracious interactions in countless dimensions. After death I believe is this deep relationship with Life.

A Will
A will is most essential for people whose possessions are few: a home, car, personal effects. If you do not have a will, the state by law decides who gets what, and charges legal fees, which may require selling your home or other effects. If you write a will, you save your loved ones expensive state involvement, and you decide who gets what possessions. You decide who cares for your children and other dependants. Seek legal advice — often free — to write a will. In some states if handwritten according to certain rules it is a valid will.

An act of desperation, a cry for help, or a planned way to end intense suffering are among many reasons for suicide. Understanding our psychosocial feelings helps us understand suicide and also how to aid people contemplating it, and how to heal the devastation of family members of one who commits suicide. Unfortunately, some religious groups condemn suicide thoughtlessly, because they do not search for the meaning and significance of suicide. Don't let them lead you into their tragic religiosity; seek religious groups and pastors who understand and can help.

"Life is a terminal condition," said Chuck Meyer. However long or short, life is inevitably followed by death.
Life’s ending is usually now in a hospital or other institution. It may come at home with the aid of a hospice. When life is ending we must face difficult questions, but we better face them long before when our minds and feelings are clear. As life ends our emotions may make it hard for us to express our feelings and our wishes. Medical professionals or facilities of some religious groups may make decisions for us that we do not want.

Advance directives
If you want to have control of your medical decisions, complete some legal forms called advance directives that may differ from state to state. Texas forms are linked.

  • Durable Power of Attorney deputizes someone to make financial decisions and actions.
  • Medical Power of Attorney (MPOA) for health care appoints someone to make medical decisions for you if you become unable to. Select someone who shares your beliefs and feelings about medical care, life, and death. This person makes those decisions for you when you cannot. As soon as you can act, you again make your own decisions.
  • Appointment of a guardian for minor or disabled dependants.
  • Directive to physicians tells medical workers our wishes regarding life-sustaining care. You may add a prohibition of providing nutrition, hydration, or artificial nutrition and hydration or other interventions you may not desire.
  • Appointment of an agent to control disposition of remains.
  • Out-of-hospital Do Not Resuscitate Order (DNR) instructs emergency medical personnel to forgo resuscitation attempts.

These forms depend on local laws. To find the correct forms for your state before they are needed contact the Funeral Consumers Alliance. While many states make it illegal to help a person to die when it is inevitable, some medical professionals may help you. Click here for a form.

And life
Death need not be a bleak end. I believe that it is followed by new life. As a pastor for about two decades I saw too much dying. Funerals and memorial services celebrate the life of the one we remember, and celebrates the One in whom we can have hope of life. Morrie Schwarz gathered friends and family just before the inevitable death of ALS to join them in celebrating his own funeral with him.

When death comes, what then? A physician working in one of the poorer sections of London a century ago was always accompanied by his dog. He left the dog outside the room where a patient was for the dog’s health. One time he lingered longer than usual, because a dying patient asked many questions about dying. Their conversation was interrupted by scratching at the door. The patient asked what it was. The physician answered, “That is my dog. He does not know anything about what is in here, except his master is in here, and he wants to be with his master. That is what happens at death.”

When death comes, friends and family rejoice in memories, express grief and possible anger at death, talk with one another. Keep the conversations going. And from time to time be silent. Hold hands and hug. In the book Tuesdays With Morrie meet a man accepting death dynamically, and read about a funeral before death.

Morrie Schwartz tells what his meditation teacher told him about a wave. A little he-wave is bobbing up and down in the ocean, having a great time. All of a sudden, he realizes he's going to crash into the shore. In this big wide ocean he's carried toward the shore, and he'll he annihilated. "My God, what's going to happen to me?" he says, a sour and despairing look on his face. Along comes a female wave, bobbing up and down, having a great time. And the female wave says to the male wave, "Why are you so depressed?" The male says, "You're going to crash into that shore, and you'll be nothing." She says, "You don't understand. You're not a wave; you're part of the ocean." Morrie adds, "I'm part of all humanity. I'm going to die, but I'm also going to live on.…I believe that I am part of a larger whole."

Funerals vary widely from somber and death-like to a time of rejoicing. Plan to sing some of the hymns of hope of your faith-life. Talk and sing about grace and beauty in life. Recall funny events! When I was pastor at funerals, I generally ended by saying, when we say goodbye, we are saying 'God be with you' but that was shortened to goodbye. But in Spanish, so common in Texas, when we part, we say, 'Adios.' And the meaning is clear, unlike goodbye. Adios means 'to God.' As we part today let's say to one another, "adios."

If the One whom we can get to know — really know deeply — in the Gospel of Mark and Paul's letter to Romans chapter 8 verses 11–27 is the one who meets us at death, what more do we need to know? Morrie said, "Learn how to live, and you'll learn how to die; learn how to die, and you'll learn how to live."

Copyright © 2003, 2006 John F. Yeaman






Quoted from Morrie: In His Own Words by Morrie Schwartz, pages 126–127.