‘Why Wait?’ – A Look at Closure Before Death
Rev. Robert Fleischmann, National Director, Christian Life Resources
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. (2 Timothy 4:7)
A speaker at one of our conferences indicated that he hoped for a lingering death. He knew people most often want to die suddenly and unexpectedly in their sleep — he didn’t. He wanted time. He wanted to use his remaining moments to do things and especially to say things that he otherwise felt unable or uncomfortable doing.
Admittedly the dying often use a level of candor and boldness once they are given a few months to live. They use the time to mend fences, bury hatchets, heal family wounds, and bring closure to their brief time remaining on earth. Most speak with wonderful frankness about spiritual matters. Even the most silent of believers become bold and courageous in their witness for God and the confidence found in the merits of Christ.
I Would Ask: Why Wait?
Why wait until an impending death notice comes your way before saying and doing those things that should be said and done? How many of us sinfully allow the sun to set on our anger (Matthew 5:23-24)? How many of us see the sins of friends and family yet keep silent, worrying more about giving offense rather than their souls (Ezekiel 3:18ff)? How often are we bashful in our Christian witness (Matthew 5:14-16)? What of those times when our voice needs to be heard (Proverbs 31:8-9), our selfishness needs to disappear (Luke 6:29-31), and our love needs to abound (Philippians 1:9)? How often don’t we walk to the other side rather than help those in need (Luke 10:30ff), gossip instead of defending (Colossians 3:8-14), or neglect instead of proclaiming the gospel message of sin and salvation in Christ (Acts 4:20)?
All of these matters are to be part of a lifestyle that starts the moment faith begins until our dying breath – not just after confirmation, at the start of marriage, or at the birth of a child. This lifestyle doesn’t start when we are elected to the Church Council or another leadership role in the church. And it doesn’t start when a terminal diagnosis is given.
The reality is that from the beginning of our life we begin the process of dying. Our days are numbered (Psalm 49:10; 1 Corinthians 15:22), and death will come. It is the Divine Physician who gave us the diagnosis that because of sin death comes to all of us (Romans 5:12). Oh yes, today’s medicine may help you live longer than your ancestors. That life-saving operation may forestall death. But in the end, our lives end!
In a world of incredible diversity, death is one of those rare common denominators. Yet, considering its commonness, it is a terribly neglected topic. We created a resource to help people witness the truth of life in Christ when facing death. Working with legal counsel, we developed a Christian medical directive statement. This legal document allows you to designate a person to serve as your health care agent, make selections regarding the kind of treatment or care you want to be provided, and includes a Christian witness to your faith and to the sanctity of human life. We offer this document at no cost through our website, here.
Yes, a lingering death gives us the chance to state our wishes, mend our fences, and settle our unfinished business. But why wait? Isn’t it what we should be doing throughout our lives?
So now your family wants you to state your medical wishes legally in a document. Your lawyer agrees it is a good idea. In addition, hospitals now ask you about your medical directive statement when you are admitted. They will indicate that you have the legal right to have such a document (and offer their own generic document if you don’t already have one). Let your voice be heard, and let it speak the things of God.
Don’t wait for a lingering death. Use every circumstance in your life as an opportunity to speak the truth loudly, clearly, lovingly, and with confidence. Even in death, you have life! Don’t wait to get the word out.
Q&A on Treatment Options and Medical Directives
May 2, 2018