What end of life issues are you most concerned about for yourself?

I remember eating with a bunch of friends one day and the subject of end-of-life issues came up. One friend, Jim, and environmentalist at heart said: “I’m going to be composted!”

We all kind of giggled uncomfortably, but realized that he wanted to return to the earth as quickly as possible. It was consistent with who he was as a person, if a bit gross to the rest of us.

I noted that I really didn’t care much about what people did with my body but emphasized that it should not be expensive. “A plain, plain casket. If that means pine box than so be it. I really like that the Trappists make caskets now and that they pray for those who will one day be buried in it and that the materials decompose quickly.”

My wife hates it when I talk about this. But at least my wishes are out there for someone to take care of, if she’s too overwhelmed.

In fact, I have a “dead file” on my computer. It mostly deals with how I want my funeral arrangements, presiders and preachers. Musicians and pall bearers.

And people who should be nowhere near the altar!

The names have changed over the years. Not because people have fallen out of favor but mostly because others have gotten to know me better and have grown closer with me. It would be tragic if they were not part of celebrating my life and death.

Wait! Did I just say “celebrating my death?” It seems I’m a bit more comfortable with these matters than I thought. Perhaps we’ll pick that up tomorrow when we talk about funerals.

In short, I really want people to be around who can comfort those left behind. My wife, friends, family, students, colleagues. Even that darn dog! That’s what I want when I am mourning. I’m not the type who wants to be alone. I’m an active person who likes people around me and then I slink off into more private reflection later.

Surprisingly, I have no serious qualms about any end of life issues. I’m content to die peacefully and have no problem donating organs or even allowing my body to be donated to a medical school.

“Use me as you will, Lord” is a prayer I recite often, especially in moments of stress or anxiety… or confusion. And so I maintain that in my last wishes. Let those medical folks use what they can as they deem fit for my organs. May they do someone else some good as they have done for me.

I’m not one for extraordinary measures. So don’t take great pains in keeping me bound to this mortal coil. But exhaust what possibilities exist and let those nearest me make the call. It’s not going to hurt anyone else either way and if I am beyond repair, it’s probably not going to hurt me either. A physician’s first rule is “Do no harm.”

So beyond the basics, I’m pretty easy here. Do what you can to keep me alive if there’s hope of recovery. Let me go if it is beyond hope, because God will take care of me anyway. And keep it simple with the burial options and have a really nice mass. The readings are in the dead file and I even picked the songs and who gets to preach. Try not to mess it up!

Tomorrow is my birthday…so we’ll finish this death series as we continue to contemplate life.

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