Several years ago, we took a family beach trip with my husband’s extended family. With their adult children gathered together, my in-laws took the opportunity to share the plans they were making for their future. They talked about retirement homes that offered graduated care and downsizing to a smaller, more accessible home in the meantime. They told us about their long-term health insurance, as well as the burial arrangements they had already made. They even brought photos of furniture, art, and other mementos so we could let them know now which things we wanted.
At first, we resisted listening. We were all a bit uncomfortable with them talking so openly about their deaths. But the more I thought about it, the more I appreciated them, not only for their planning and wisdom, but also their modeling. They were showing us, who are all parents ourselves, how to talk to our own children about death—not with fear and in hushed tones but calmly, with practicality. I had a deep sense that they wanted us to know that they were prepared and didn’t want us to be worried for them. It was a gift, really.
In John’s Gospel, Jesus talks about his death a great deal. So much so, that it does make his disciples and those listening to him uncomfortable. I think he does this out of love. Jesus doesn’t want them to be scared. He doesn’t want them to worry or for their hearts to be troubled. Jesus does his best to prepare them, not only for his death, but for their own. He invites them to stay close to him on his journey, modeling for them how to face life and death without regrets.
Talking about death, let alone planning for it, is countercultural in America. How could talking openly about your mortality be a gift to someone else?
God, you are in our beginning and our end. Help me to plan for my future with love and courage. Amen.