“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them will be like foolish men who built his house on sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was its fall.”  Matthew 7: 24-27

               One of the most loving things that you can do for your loved ones is to plan ahead. It might be a hard conversation to have, and it might be even more terrifying to think of as possible, yet I have experienced planning ahead as one of the most loving things a person can do.
               Perhaps as a pastor, reflecting on widows who didn’t know how to balance a checkbook, to husbands who died in great debt, to children who had to make all the decisions about what their Mom may have wanted if faced with a terminal illness, to families that are emotionally devastated but have to make really critical decisions….
               My Grandfather (one of my faith heroes), was married three times. He was silly and fun to be around. But he also was kind enough to plan ahead for how to help his children and grandchildren. I can remember sitting in his living room after his second marriage (my biological grandmother died at age 73), and him telling us very sincerely that he and his new wife had agreed that they would be buried next to their first spouses and their children. He said he wanted us to be clear that my biological grandma would always be his wife and he didn’t want the children to fuss or get upset having to make decisions about where he was to be buried.
               This might be hard to see as a great act of love and caring, but I think that the more we can plan ahead, and make decisions clearly, the more it relieves our families.
               I know this, because I can still cry when I think of all the ways my husband began to plan to take care of me and his children when he was diagnosed with a terminal illness. We had already made a will when we went overseas, in order to care for our children. And we had discussed nursing homes and such things. I am so grateful now. We had good life insurance. Such a hard thing to give money towards when you are young….  And we made a living will or Advance Directive…. I was pretty angry that he did not want a feeding tube, or to be on a ventilator. I wanted him to fight. Now I realize that he was thinking of us, and of the caregiving and burden he thought he would be to us. He was preparing us to be OK without him. I think that was his last goal. To take care of us. Now I realize why he made me buy a new car! So I had a reliable car! And he completely planned his memorial service. So that I could just show up and be showered with love.
               Our Forums this fall are going to be about Planning Ahead. The Executive Director of a non-profit that helps with this planning will be our speaker on Sept. 18th, and Oct. 2nd. She will teach us about Advance Directives and the details about hospice care. Then on Oct. 16, speakers from the Alzheimer’s Association are coming to teach us about caring for loved ones.
               Personally, I think this is one of the things that churches can do for their members: help them face these difficult parts of life and prepare to take care of their families. Please join us on one, or on all of these forums. No matter what age you are. You know, none of us gets out of this alive.

~~ Pastor Brenda