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Making Treasured Memoriescomment (0)

January 1, 2009

By Bob Terry

If you want to empty a room, then try introducing the subject of cemetery plots into a conversation. It makes no difference if it is a family function or a group of friends. Most people will either leave or refuse to talk about the subject.

It doesn’t have to be cemetery plots one brings up. It can be wills or anything else that introduces the subject of one’s own mortality. Americans generally are afraid of death. It is a taboo topic. According to one survey, at least one out of 10 Americans does not have a will because he or she does not want to think about dying.

Yet death is inevitable until the Lord Jesus returns. It is part of the human experience. Some die suddenly. For others, death is a lingering process. Some die in the spring of life. Others live long into the winter season before they die. Some die amid tragic circumstances. For others, death is a relief as well as a release. But all die.

What is communicated when we refuse to talk about this important subject, when we refuse to acknowledge death’s reality?

Studies show that death becomes more mysterious and overwhelming for those who refuse to talk about the subject. Confusion builds. People are left alone to grapple with one of the most profound issues of existence.

When family members or close friends refuse to talk about cemetery plots or wills or other death-related issues, they send unfortunate messages. Not only do they communicate their own fear but they also communicate rejection of the one who brought up the topic.

This is especially true for those trying to prepare for that inevitable experience. But instead of acceptance, they get rejection. Instead of inclusion, they get isolation. Instead of understanding, they get fear. Is it any wonder that some come from an honest attempt to talk to family members about important issues around the end of life feeling saddened by their rejection and anxious about what will happen after they die since no one will talk with them about such issues?

As Christians, why are we afraid to talk about cemetery plots, wills and the like? In 1 Corinthians 15:55–57, the apostle Paul asked, “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

In verse 20 and 22–23, he said, “But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. … [S]o in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when He comes, those who belong to Him.”

With confidence in the Lord Jesus Christ, Christians are able to communicate with head and heart and spirit about death-related issues. Christians not only can give permission to talk about related issues but we also can affirm the multitude of emotions caught up in the death and dying experience. We can allow others to walk with us through the process of death, and we can talk with others about death.

Christians can find comfort in one another and comfort in the Savior, who has promised that He has gone to prepare a place for us (John 14:2). Even the process of talking about cemetery plots, wills and the like takes away the mystery, fear and confusion associated with such topics.

Being open and honest about end-of-life issues is best for all, and it can be done because of the hope that is based in faith in Jesus Christ.

That means one can tend to issues like cemetery plots and wills and living wills and medical power of attorney and guardians for minor children and dispersal of assets and charitable giving following death and care for survivors and all the rest as expressions of faith. These become positive and responsible steps of preparation and caring rather than morbid and fearful acts.

A will, for example, ensures the distribution of property in accordance with one’s desires. Yet more than 50 percent of Americans do not have a will. For those with minor children, a will offers instruction for their care. Yet 67 percent of parents with minor children do not have a will.

A will relieves loved ones of the burden of many difficult decisions. A will provides opportunity to practice Christian stewardship as a lasting testimony to one’s faith in Christ. Yet less than half the Baptists in the United States include Christian causes in their wills.

Americans, including Baptists, know they should have a will and make other necessary plans regarding death.
Three out of four people say they need a will, and nearly nine out of 10 parents of minor children say they need a will, but still most do not have one. It is not because the process is confusing or the cost overly expensive. Most shy away from making a will or buying cemetery plots or talking with family members about end-of-life issues because of fear — fear of death itself or fear of violating the cultural taboo against talking about death-related issues.

January is Make Your Will Month for Alabama Baptists. There is no better time to break that cultural taboo than now. The Baptist Foundation of Alabama offers material that can guide you as you work with your personal attorney to draft a will.

Then next time someone mentions cemetery plots or some other end-of-life issue, listen. It could be the beginning of a treasured memory.

For more information, visit the Foundation’s Web site, www.tbfa.org, or call 334-394-2000.

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