November 2, 2014 - All Souls Day, Year A
We don’t talk enough about death, but it is the one thing that will most certainly happen to each of us.
Each one of us, without exception, is going to die. But we don’t like to talk about it.
Today, on this Feast of All the Souls of the Faithful Departed, when we remember all our loved ones who have gone before us in faith, let’s talk about death and dying.
Elizabeth Kubler Ross, author of the famous book On Death and Dying, says:
“I believe that we are solely responsible for our choices, and we have to accept the consequences of every deed, word, and thought throughout our lifetime.”
So let us reflect today on some choices we can make today about our own deaths.
These choices help us recognize that death is not the end for those who believe. It is simply our passage to everlasting life.
I want to share with you the church’s and my own thoughts about living wills, durable medical power of attorney, hospice, the anointing of the sick, last will and testaments, writing your own obituary and planning your own funeral.
Making end of life decisions now is so very important. We as Catholic Christians are called by God to live well. I believe that we are also called by God to die well.
First, living wills. A living will is a legal document in which a person instructs health care providers about his or her wishes should he or she become incapacitated. I have one. You should have one too.
There are templates online. But you can customize your own living will as I have done with mine. You can give specific instructions about the care you wish to receive.
Make your wishes known now about the kind of health care you want when you are no longer able to speak for yourself.
Durable medical power of attorney. This is a legal document granting authority to a person of your choosing to act on your behalf to make medical decisions in your name.
You should consider appointing the person of your choice, otherwise the courts may appoint someone should it become necessary.
Hospice. I want to die in my own home, in my own bed, not in some hospital hooked up to all kinds of machines. Hospice can make that possible for me.
You need to decide how you want to die and make that known sooner rather than later.
The Anointing of the Sick. Some of you still call this “The Last Rites.” The Catholic Church hasn’t used that expression since 1973.
The Church teaches us that the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick is given to those who are seriously ill. It should be given as soon as one begins to be in danger of death from sickness or old age.
This anointing with holy oil is a sacrament of healing. Any baptized person who is ill or in danger of death may ask to receive this anointing for healing of body and soul.
Last will and testaments. I have personally seen many families torn apart because a loved one didn’t have a will. If you have any assets or any property, then you need to write a will.
Your obituary. You’ve seen some obituaries in the paper. Are you really going to leave that for your family to do? Take a few moments and gather some information and make some notes to help your family with this difficult task.
Planning your funeral mass. I’ve already chosen the music and the readings for my funeral. If you want to do that as well, contact us at the Church Office. It’s something we’d be happy to help you with.
Death is not something we should fear. About death, the Book of Wisdom says: The souls of the just are in the hands of God.
Job says: I know that my redeemer lives and I shall behold him on the last day.
Paul says: Our eternal life comes from our faith in Jesus who was raised from the dead.
And Jesus says: Whoever serves me must follow me and where I am there also will my servant be.
When we live, we live for the Lord. And if we die, we die with the Lord. So whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.