How are you preparing for your own death?

As soon as i spotted the police cars in our driveway I knew that my father had died. Although he was recovering rapidly from the heart attack he had suffered less than a month before, it took me only a moment to deduce that his weakened heart had been victimized by a second attack.

When I went into the house my mother, always the strong one in our family, acknowledged what I had already surmised. After we consoled each other, my mother returned to the unpleasant chore of telephoning the rest of our family to give them the unexpected news, while I timidly and curiously made my way downstairs to view my father’s body.

I had never seen a dead person before. I was 20 years old and well aware that people died, yet I had never come close to touching a dead body. I wasn’t sure what to think as I sat there on the floor looking at the body of the man who had been my father. I didn’t know whether to cry or to be angry, whether to hold his hand or just look, whether to say something or sit in silence.

Then, what I didn’t want to think about forced its way into my consciousness: “Someday, I’m going to die, too. Someday that will be me.”

Since then, I’ve discovered from talking with others who have lost a parent that it is very common to have such thoughts. When a grandparent dies, we unconsciously sense that our parents serve as a buffer between ourselves and death. But when a parent dies, there is no escaping the reality that our generation is next in line.

I have thought about death often since that time, but never considered it as seriously as I did last year when I enrolled in a graduate program in counseling to improve my skills as a pastor and counselor. I was immediately asked to fill out a ...

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