On a hot summer morning an old, green pickup truck pulled into the parking lot of the funeral home in LA (lower Alabama). Larry looked out the window and said, “Well, I declare. There’s old Chess. I haven’t seen him in ages.”
Chess was a tall, lanky farmer dressed in overalls. He slowly got out of the pickup and made his way to the front door where Larry greeted him.
“It’s a sad day, Larry,” he said. “Momma died last night.”
“I’m sorry Chess. She’s been sick for a while, hasn’t she?”
“Long time, Larry. Long time. It’s a blessing. She’s not suffering anymore.”
Larry had known Chess for years and his compassion was genuine. He waited as Chess pulled a red handkerchief from his pocket and wiped his eyes. After a moment Larry said, “Chess, tell me where Momma is and we will go pick her up.”
“I didn’t want to bother you with that,” Chess said. “You know how far out the farm is. I brought Momma in. She’s in the truck.”
Larry and I rolled the stretcher out to the pickup and sure enough, there was Momma. She still had her nightclothes on and Chess have carefully wrapped her in a sheet. We gently picked her up and rolled her into the funeral home as Chess watched.
Chess had been taking care of Momma for years as her health declined. When she died, driving Momma to the funeral home seemed like the natural thing to do for this old, country farmer. He took care of Momma all the way to the end.
Taking care of Momma is something a lot of us have been doing. As we get older we need to be thinking about the day when our children may be taking care of us. There are several things we can do to make this easier.
The most important thing is to talk about these issues. If I am incapacitated and not capable of making decisions on my own, what do I want as I approach the end of life? Do I want to be kept alive by every possible means? Would I want a feeding tube? What if my heart stops? Do I want the doctors to attempt to resuscitate me? Do I want to donate my organs? What would I like for my funeral?
As my mother is suffering from Alzheimer’s, my brother and I have talked about these issues. We have been to the funeral home and planned her funeral. We have DNR orders (Do Not Resuscitate), and my brother is the healthcare power of attorney.
One of the greatest gifts you can give to your children is to make end of life decisions while you can. These include Advance Directives, Living Will and Health Care Power of Attorney, Medical Orders for Scope of Treatment (MOST), DNR orders, organ donation, and funeral plans.
Many attorneys specialize in Advance Directives, but these forms are also available online. Your doctor and our healthcare systems all are willing to talk with you about these decisions. Our funeral homes are always ready to work with you on final arrangements. And as a minister, I have always appreciated those who have shared their final wishes with me.
The Bible says there is a time to be born and a time to die. Sadly, I see many people who are living past their time to die. They are not really living, but their bodies are still functioning through artificial means. I don’t think anyone wants to exist this way. In most of these cases Advance Directives were not made and the family was left making the difficult and heart-wrenching decision of what to do with Momma.
Chess took care of Momma to the end. It was the natural thing for him to do. We can take care of Momma and take care of our children by planning ahead. It’s the natural thing to do!