Vale of Tears

Appendix Three - Important Considerations



Appendix Three – Important Considerations

NOTHING IS PREDICTABLE when it comes to bereavement – but most people are emerging from the grief tunnel by the third year.

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.

Living Wills

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
Billy Graham

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,2 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.3

Living Compliments

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.


1 Janice Lord, (1988) No Time for Goodbyes: Coping with Sorrow, Anger and Injustice after a tragic Death. Pathfinder Publishing.
2 Isaiah 40:6-8, Job 14:1-2, 5; James 4:14
3 John 19:26-27