For some, however, this third year may
also prove hard to bear, as the full weight of their loss continues
to bear down on them.1 Responsibilities that had been apportioned
between partners fall exclusively on one set of shoulders now, and
those already stooped by grief. Although we are primarily concerned
in this book with our spiritual and emotional journey, it is
impossible to ignore the fact loss of financial security is likely
to compound an already troubled situation.
Almost all grief episodes accelerate the timescale for attending to
inevitably stressful business arrangements. Whilst some need goading
into getting on with these, others need restraining from making
long-term decisions too hastily. It is not without cause that the
old truism reminds us that “Where there is a will, there are
relatives.” There are plenty of people around who are eager to make
a fast buck out of someone else’s misery.
Since unfamiliar tasks, such as handling complex financial details
are bound to place an additional strain on those who had been
content to leave such matters to their partners, this is another way
of saying that it makes good sense for the living to do all they can
to prepare their families for such an occurrence.2
||Our days are numbered.
One of the primary goals in our lives should be to prepare
for our last day. The legacy we leave is not just in our
possessions, but in the quality of our lives. What
preparations should we be making now? The greatest waste in
all of our Earth, which cannot be recycled or reclaimed, is
our waste of the time that God has given us each day
We have mentioned before that
in many western societies, death is an all but “taboo”
subject. In The Old Folks, Tove Ditlevsen, the Danish
poetess, put it like this:
||If they mention Death
everyone cheerfully protests –
which makes them more alone,
with no one they can talk about
this great at-birth ordained event.
Perhaps the best way to
overcome our natural reluctance to think about death is to
start backwards. Since all of us are sure to die one day,3
it is only common sense to make whatever preparations we can
for it now.
These will hopefully not be needed for a good long time, but
it would be foolish to be caught unprepared. Catherine
Marshall relates in To Live Again how unprepared she
was for widowhood. She had naively assumed that it wouldn’t
happen to her – or that if it did, God would provide for her
as He did for George Mueller.
There are certainly many Scriptural promises for widows and
orphans, but that does not mean that we should not make
sensible precautions. It is wise to draw up your will as
specifically as possible, using percentages instead of fixed
sums of money, since values change with the passing of time.
Above all, don’t forget to make sure that someone knows how
to find it!
Lasting Powers of Attorney are essential but “Living wills”
are becoming an increasingly popular way of indicating how
you would wish to be treated if you were no longer in a
position to discuss these things for yourself. Here is an
example that someone sent me:
||I wish to live a full and
fulfilling life, but not to prolong life at all costs. If I
have lost the ability to interact with others and have no
reasonable chance of regaining this ability, or if my
suffering is intense and irreversible, I would not wish to
be subjected to surgery or resuscitation, or have the life
support of mechanical ventilations or other life prolonging
procedures, provided that refusing this treatment will not
cause me to expire from severe hunger or thirst. I wish,
rather, to have care which provides comfort and support, and
which facilitates my interaction with others to the extent
that this is possible.
In order to carry out these instructions and to interpret
them, I authorise . . . to accept, plan and refuse treatment
on my behalf in cooperation with attending physicians and
health personnel. This person knows how much I value life,
and how I would wish to respond in the face of suffering and
dying. Should it be impossible to reach this person, I
authorise . . . to make such choices for me. I have
discussed my desires for care during terminal illness with
them, and I trust their judgement on my behalf. In addition
I have discussed with them the following specific
instructions: . . Signed and Dated
Witness(es) (and their addresses).
We saw earlier how Moses and
David did all they could to pave the path for their
successors, who themselves received God’s help and leading.
Rather than tiptoeing around the thought of dying, why not
plan an occasional Contingency Day to discuss financial
affairs and other practical matters with the appropriate
people? Far from being morbid, this may actually help you to
appreciate the life you have together, and to make the most
of every day that is given to you. After all, it would
hardly be a kindness to leave someone you love (and who is
likely to be in a state of emotional shock) the additional
problem of having to contend with a raft of unknown
financial details. Even Jesus made arrangements for the care
of His mother when He was on the cross.4
Shortly after we moved north to embark on our sojourn in
Shetland, without our daughter, Ruth, who was then sixteen,
we received an exquisite letter from her in which she
detailed all the things that she had learned from us about
life and godliness. That letter went straight into Ros’s
treasure box! Why risk leaving it till too late to express
our appreciation for the people we love? Gillian Warren
found this a wonderful undertaking.
We put the magnifying glass over each (good point we
appreciated about them) in order to see more clearly, and
then told them, as best we could, what great people we
thought they were.
The joy of doing it was immense . . . Now at least, should
anything happen, our children know that we think the world
of them . . . The result was quite unexpected. In due
course, each one wrote back to us a letter in similar terms,
and the bonds between us have been greatly strengthened. The
whole episode released enormous joy amongst us as a family.
Gillian recommends writing such a letter to each emerging
adult, ideally when they are between seventeen and nineteen.
Your children may well be a great deal older than that, but
it is never too late.
As you put pen to paper, you may well find yourself
recalling episodes that at the time you took for granted but
which you look back on now with real pleasure and delight.
Such recollections are precious, and – who knows – your
loving encouragement may do more than you will ever know to
help launch another generation on its way.