Preparing for the Death of a Loved One

til deathAfter my Dad was diagnosed with terminal acute leukemia, one of the first things he said to Mom was “You need to get a light-weight vacuum cleaner.” He’d helped Mom by vacuuming the house for years; he knew the machine was too heavy for her. He also had her bring the checkbook into the hospital, where they reviewed their finances together. Lovingly, Dad wanted to ease the transition of his passing for Mom where he could.

None of us wants to think about the death of someone we love, especially a spouse. Nevertheless, the time to prepare for it is while you are both living and healthy.

In the next several blogs I will discuss various aspects of preparation for the death of someone you love, including finances, care options, communication with family and friends, understanding your own limits, and saying goodbye. For purposes of communication I will speak about losing your spouse or partner; however, many of these ideas will also be helpful in the death of another loved one or family member.

hospital bedFollowing are some questions you may want to use to start the discussion with your spouse about about their wishes in the event of critical illness or death.

    • If either of us is unable to make crucial medical decisions due to incapacitation, or our heart or breathing stop, do we want medical personnel to perform life-saving procedures? If not, do we have a DNR (“Do Not Resuscitate”) form signed and on file with our physician(s)? (See
    • Where are our legal documents i.e. wills, trust documents, deed of trust for our home, automobile pink slips, and stock certificates? List our banker(s), lawyer(s), financial consultant or CPA, insurance and stock brokers. (Will include a form for this in another post.)
    • List our bank accounts and locations. Where will we keep these confidential lists safe?  If we have a safe deposit box, where is the key? Is the other partner listed as a designated signer on the bank’s form? Does he/she have a key? Should we list a non-family member in the event we pass away at the same time?
    • If possible, teach each other how and when to pay bills, how to fill the gas tank, and how to complete other tasks that may have been his or her responsibility before illness set in. For example, my mother had never filled the gas tank before Dad died.
    • Have we each specified in writing who we want to receive special personal items such as wedding rings, jewelry, art, tools, or furniture?
    • Do we prefer burial or cremation? If burial, where? Can we pre-purchase the site? If cremation, where would we like our ashes spread?
    • Have we talked about or listed special wishes for music, pastor or priest we wish to perform our memorials, or other preferences for our services?
    • If we have pets, where would we like them to go after our death(s)? (My contract with the woman from whom I purchased my Cavalier King Charles Spaniels indicates that in the event of my husband’s and my deaths, “the girls” will return to her. This ensures our dogs will continue to be loved and well cared for, and that no family member or friend has to take in a pet they may not want.)

My prayer is that these tips will help you be better prepared at such time as you face the critical illness or death of one you love.

“Hey, Can you Help Me?”

homeless man

“Hey, can you buy me a cheap burger?”

Out of the corner of my eye I saw an unkempt man walking toward my car. Oh no, I thought. I make it a practice not to give money to people on the street. Here I was in the drive-through lane at Burger King. From about 15 feet away the man asked, “Would you buy me the cheapest hamburger they have? I’m starving.”

From the safety of my car, I responded. “Sure, I can do that. Do you want fries?”

“Yeah. I really appreciate it.”

The disheveled man had become a person with a voice, a personality, a need.

“I’m happy to do it. God loves you!”

He smiled and pointed his index finger at me. “Jesus loves you. The Holy Spirit loves you.”

I grinned, suddenly feeling quite comfortable with this stranger, and told him I’d meet him at the end of the drive-through, then ordered for both of us. After paying and collecting our food, I handed the man his food and coke, along with a packet of protein bars, juice, wet wipes, etc. that I keep in my car for occasions like this. “Here’s a little something for later.”


“Really. What’s your name?”

“Thomas … I’m the doubter who put my finger in Jesus’ side.”

“Hi Thomas. I’m Carol. Is Jesus your Savior?”

“Yeah. I love him.”

“Me too. I hope you have a good day. God bless you.”

He raised his elbow to touch mine. “And you … peace up!” as his thumbs pointed upward.

It’s easy for me to judge someone who is homeless…to think they must not be trying hard enough, might be using the system. And while that may be true for some, Jesus didn’t tell me to check a person’s attempts at finding a job before giving. What if he required me to be ‘worthy’ before he would love me? I don’t know what caused Thomas to become homeless. I don’t know his story–his family, education, the experiences and relationships that have brought him to the circumstance in which I met him. But his request gave me an opportunity to serve–and his response about Jesus made us family. “There are always going to be poor and needy people among you. So I command you: Always be generous, open purse and hands, give to your neighbors in trouble, your poor and hurting neighbors.” Deuteronomy 15:11, MSG.

What are some practical ways you’ve found to help those in need? I’d love to hear your thoughts.


Compassion – a Great Gift



“Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” (Galatians 6:10)

Business professionals, high-rise office buildings, hustle and bustle surrounded me as I walked toward my destination in downtown Los Angeles a few years back. A well-coifed woman walked a few yards ahead of me, dressed in a business suit and heels.  I watched as she passed a homeless man who sat on the sidewalk, asking for help.

“Good morning!” Her cheerful voice rang out as she looked straight at the man and smiled as she passed him.

I’ve never forgotten her response. While she didn’t give him what he asked for–money–she did acknowledge him rather than treating him as if he were invisible. Like others, I’ve often walked past someone asking for help, eyes averted, acting like the person was invisible.  When she addressed him in a respectful way rather than ignoring him, this woman treated the man with dignity.

Yet Jesus also tells us that if someone is in need and we tell them “be warm and filled” but do nothing practical to help, what good is that? “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.” How often have we heard that phrase? How often have we acted on it?

Dr. Kenneth Brantly of Samaritan’s Purse ministered to patients in Liberia and contracted Ebola; Mother Teresa used up her life in service to “the poorest of the poor.” These are just two examples of individuals living out the Golden Rule.

Service often brings joy; sometimes it brings suffering. But it is Christ’s call.

Can you think of a time when you were treated in respectful, compassionate way?

The day after I learned my father was terminally ill, I sat in the waiting room while Mom and my oldest brother, a physician, told Dad his diagnosis. I sat there among strangers, sobbing…and I couldn’t stop. Another woman was on the phone. After she completed her call, she walked over and sat beside me.

“Are you okay?” she asked.

“No, I’m not. My father is dying.”

We talked for a few minutes. But I will never forget her kindness and compassion in reaching out to listen and touch when I was hurting. May I follow Christ’s lead and treat others with the compassion He has extended to me.

Have you had, or missed, opportunities to treat someone else as you want to be treated? I’d love to hear your stories.



Renewed Hope for Kelly

Agility class at age 2 with Mary McHenry Photo credit Mike McHenry

Agility class at age 2 with Mary McHenry
Photo credit Mike McHenry

She could hardly stand up. Her hind legs splayed behind her. Trying to walk, she would periodically lose her balance and crash to the floor. Where our Kelly did agility training and used to jump onto the couch, she now avoided the steps and waited until I picked her up and placed her on it. Was it time to let her go?

I saw the pain in her beautiful, expressive brown eyes, the sadness. My heart hurt. I love this beautiful little Cavalier King Charles Spaniel who brought joy back into my life after my first husband passed away.

Watching Kelly grow, playing with her, having her crawl under the covers with me on cold nights (how did she breathe?) and waking to her warm body against my leg gave me a renewed reason to get up in the mornings. Someone needed me. I laughed the morning I headed to my computer without feeding her first. She stood across the room from me, her ‘lips’ pulled back, making a chewing motion with her teeth. I got the message and fed her immediately. She hasn’t done that since!

I brought you a present!

I brought you a present!

She also brought me a gift once … dropped a little dead rat on the floor in front of me. “Thank you very much, Kelly,” I said, looking her in the eye. “I know you deserve praise for this; but I never want to see one of these again!” And she never brought me another.

So, with her pain and instability, Don and I watched closely. We increased her pain medication. Two days later we had been out for several hours. Kelly must have been on the porch when we entered the house. I went to the back corner restroom. Kelly came into the house, briefly greeted Don, then ran through the house … to find me. I heard running footsteps and knew it was my girl. Sure enough, red-haired Kells dashed into the bathroom to greet me. What a joy to see her run again. Yes, she’s getting old. And yes, she’s slowing down considerably. But I’ve again seen happiness in her eyes and she’s walking better again.

I’m grateful for this little furball of love that God brought into my life after Jerry’s death; for the joy she’s brought to both Don and me (along with her grandpup, Paige); and I’m glad it’s not yet time to let her go. Rather, I treasure every day I have with her.

“Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow.” James 1:17

The Blessing

We typically look for affirmation, acceptance, and unconditional love in a variety of ways.

  • The sexually abused daughter who grows up to become promiscuous, believing physical intimacy is the way to gain the blessing, or approval, of men.
  • The son who has never been able to please his father, continues to push himself, trying ever harder to get an “atta boy”.
  • The perfectionist who continually beats herself up because she could have “done it better,” never satisfied despite awards and recognition.

blessings rockWhat we’re looking for is a blessing. God gave one to Moses for priests Aaron and his sons. This 3000-year-old blessing still carries deep meaning.

“The Lord bless you and keep you;
the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;
the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.” Numbers 6:24-26 ESV

When his face shines on us and he gives us peace, our spirits are at rest. In his blessing we find unconditional love which remains constant, not because of who we are or what we do, but because of who HE is. God has chosen to delight in me. I don’t have to earn His love. I can’t. I simply need to receive it, bask in it.

And how can I give the blessing to others? In a video, an impatient man is given a pair of “all-seeing” glasses.blessing joyce meyerPeople who before were irritants or interruptions are seen through a new lens—recognizing one needs a hug, a woman just lost a dear friend, a man lost his job. Seeing their pain, the man responds very differently than before.

Pray God for eyes to see and ears to hear, so I can bless those around me…with a warm smile, a listening heart, a “thank you” to store clerks, health care professionals, and others who serve me. I want to intentionally affirm those I love and those who need encouragement.

What choices will you make this week to receive and give blessing?