Monday, March 28, 2005

Faith Works 04-02-05
By Jeff Gill

Got will?
Not as if that advertising joke hasn’t been beaten into the ground, with church groups in the lead to flog that poor old deceased equine: Got Purpose? Got Jesus? Got Worship?
So let me rephrase: hast thou a Last Will and Testament?
For anyone who started way early looking for Easter eggs under rocks, and just crawled out from under thereupon, a woman who went into a semi-conscious state in her 20’s has been in the news lately while her parents and husband have disputed what course her care should take. Right, that story.
By the time you read this, the woman in question will very likely have died. Much ink on the subject has been spilled on the sidewalks outside a hospice in Florida, governmental pavement in Tallahassee and Washington, and across front pages both far away and on your front doorstep.
My own sense of what can be understood at a distance is that, lacking clear and unmistakable grounds, we should not remove basic care like food and water from anyone, not only for that person’s sake, but before we start trimming other inconvenient lives from our profit margins and Medicaid deficits on such a basis.
But that’s not what I’m talking about today. I’m asking you, especially if you are a parent but really if you are simply over 18, “Do you have a will, or at least some written indication of your wishes when you can no longer speak for yourself, in death or disability?” Even if what you think you want is to be trundled straight to the hospital dumpster if you still can’t watch TV or perform other such worthwhile activities (if “a worthwhile life” was a good standard of care, how many of us earned medical treatment today, anyhow?), have you put it in writing?
Many of us have recently heard sermons, prayers, and various inspirational messages about life and death and our dispositions beyond the here and now to the hereafter. Many of us also have considered, but put off a serious contemplation of even the most prosaic issues around what happens when we die, like “who gets Grandma’s antique pie safe?”
The Lovely Wife and I began Lent with a full, formal, official lawyer oriented reflection on some of the most ghastly possibilities life can hold. It was not theological in essence, but you would have to be thicker than a law book to not catch the echoes.
We now have the real deal on file, something that provides for the ever-popular “simultaneous demise,” as well as various turns on “who precedes who” in death, even if in short order, and what happens to children, as yet hypothetical grandchildren, let alone property and assets. And we have talked about who makes which horrendous decisions in front of a sympathetic if ethically neutral witness, and have documentation for everything from who authorizes what to what gets done to or with the earthly remains thereof.
Talk about your solemn preparation for the Easter season.
Frankly, there is no excuse for a person of faith who owns any kind of property and has any sense of commitment to others, even just friends, not to have something written down to simplify funeral planning and distribution of obligations after you’ve left the stage. Once houses and children enter the picture, something lawyerly is necessary, but anyone can write down a basic plot outline of their final wishes and tuck it in a place easy to find (your Bible, a filing cabinet, safe deposit box). And if you feel uncomfortable discussing these things with anyone, you either need more or better friends, or your faith stance is not helping much and you’d better figure out why!
Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; if you want to offer a thought about how “faith works” for you, send it to

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