Faith Works 2-8-14
You could write your obituary
Today is the official birthdate of the Boy Scouts of America.
Feb. 8 is the date of the Congressional charter granted to bring Baden-Powell's youth program over from its English birthplace two years earlier into the United States.
Scouting had started a number of places before 1910, hearing about this approach to outdoor education and youth leadership development by various means, and there were earlier attempts to do something similar that ultimately were folded into the BSA, including Ohio's own Dan Beard and his "Sons of Daniel Boone."
Here in Licking County, we got going pretty quickly, not in 1910 (as far as we can tell) but soon after. By the 1920s, there were a number of Scout troops, with Rev. Franklin at Trinity Episcopal Church leading the way.
By 1937, Scouting had grown nationwide to the point where we were ready to hold a National Scout Jamboree, a sort of made-up word to describe a giant encampment of Scouts such as England and Europe had already seen. There were plans to hold one for the 25th anniversary of American Scouting, but a polio epidemic delayed the planned 1935 event in Washington DC for two years.
A young man in Licking County wanted to go, but we were still deep in the Great Depression through 1937. His father sadly explained that the $75 it would take for registration and train tickets weren't in the family budget. Henry was raising a calf for the market, planning to make $150 from the transaction; he and his father decided that it was up to him, but it would be okay if Henry sold the calf now, which would only bring $75, but that was what it took to go to the Jamboree.
That's what he did, camping out on the National Mall in the shadow of the Washington Monument with tens of thousands of other Scouts in late June and early July, and he came home even more committed to Scouting, his country, and his church.
I know this story because Dr. Henry Hook told it to me as we planned his funeral, which by a series of "coincidences" has to be today, February 8, the birthday of the BSA.
That part, he did not plan. All the rest, he did. You may well have read his obituary in the newspaper: he wrote it. At 89 you have the advantage of seeing clearly what's coming, and as a doctor specializing in pulmonary care, when you learn you have lung cancer you know perhaps too much.
But Henry asked to meet with me, as a fellow Scouter, not his pastor (which I wasn't at the time), to help plan his funeral fifteen years ago. We've met specifically for that purpose twice more since then: friends died, other matters shifted a bit, and modifications in the plan were called for. The outline has not changed dramatically, but he kept on making adjustments because when he died, he didn't want to leave others guessing or worried about doing the right thing. He'd laid it out years before.
Just a few weeks ago, I also had the honor of conducting Lucille Hoskinson's memorial service, and as hard as it all had to be for her son Don, we both knew one thing: she'd written her obituary, and left us more than enough information to do her "last honors" the way she wanted it.
My point to all of us, the survivors as funeral notices say, or in Lincoln's words, "we the living", is that such preparation is a gift. It is, in a very real sense, a blessing. To your family, to your friends, indeed even to the funeral home staff.
Those last folks talk about pre-need and pre-arrangement, and I'm not here to sell services, my own or anyone else's. But you need put no money down, expend no assets other than a bit of your time on this earth, to take out pen and paper, or to type on your screen and print out and seal away in a location known to a number of people, what you want done on the occasion of your passing.
If you have a church home (and if you don't, you can find one pretty easily, we're around!), your pastor or priest or rabbi will be pleased and honored to receive a copy of that. Whether an obituary written with certain strategic blanks, or a service outline, or just a list of scriptures and hymns, we will put it in the file.
And pray with you that we don't take it out for decades!
Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in Licking County; he is honored to do the last honors for his friend Henry today in Scout uniform. Tell him what you want at your funeral at email@example.com or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.