Preparing & Planning for End of Life
(Death, Dying & Burial Rites)
WHEN SHOULD I START PLANNING?
The best time to start planning for the end of life is at this very moment. It is much easier to take care of these things when life is not in crisis mode. The church is here to serve you and help you through the process. You should have your final wishes made known and placed on file with the church (see Instructions for Survivors at the time of Death). This prior planning will be of great assistance to your family. Death is very much a part of life. It is important that death be a thoughtful part of family discussion prior to the actual experience coming into the circle of family or friends.
WHAT SHOULD MY FAMILY DO WHEN DEATH IS IMMINENT?
Contact the priest. Day or Night! This is part of their regular ministry. Thus, the priest should be notified, regardless of the time. For the same reason the priest should be called in time of serious illness, whether or not it appears terminal. People should expect the continuing ministry of the church when death comes. Turning to the priest, the family will receive guidance and comfort. The priest is trained to guide people through all passages of life, especially when death comes.
WHAT ABOUT AUTOPSIES?
Sometimes, as the time of death, the family is asked for permission to perform an autopsy. The conduct of an autopsy is important, and persons are urged to cooperate with their physicians. Many things can be determined: cause of death, advances of medical knowledge to assist in better diagnosis and treatment of others, or determining cases where communicable diseases might affect other family members. Autopsy procedures maintain an attitude of respect for the physical body and utilize good surgical procedures.
SHOULD I BE CREMATED OR HAVE A CASKET?
This decision is totally your own. Many people ask about 1 Thessalonians 4:16, and make the literal argument that without a body being buried in the ground, it won’t be raised. It is important to realize that all flesh and blood bodies eventually decay and become again like dust in the earth. Cremation simply speeds the process along. God is certainly able to provide a resurrected body for those who have been cremated. The heavenly body is a new, spiritual body, and not the old body of flesh and blood. Therefore, either disposition is accepted by the church as long as it is done with the honor and respect any part of God’s creation is due. Oftentimes family members have strong feelings about the way they want to be laid to rest. Some are firmly opposed to cremation, while others much prefer it to burial. The reasons are varied, but often private and very meaningful to them. How you want your body to be laid to rest is a personal decision. It is important to discuss your wishes with your family, and also know the preferences of your family members. This will make final preparations easier for everyone involved.
SHOULD I BE BURIED FROM THE CHURCH?
ALL Christians should be buried from the church. The resources of love and guidance, of hope and strength, are continually present within the church community that you are nurtured by for all the crises of life. The final crisis, death, is a natural part of that fellowship. It is NOT recommended that your burial take place from a funeral home chapel, but from the community that supported you through your earthly life and nourished you for your life to come.
WHAT IS INVOLVED IN CHRISTIAN BURIAL?
The funeral (or burial rite) is a service of worship where prayers for God’s guidance are offered, scripture is read, hymns of the faith are sung, and an inspirational message is given. In the Episcopal Church, the service is conducted in accordance with the Book of Common Prayer. There is a choice between Rite I (traditional language) and Rite II (contemporary language). The sacrament of Holy Eucharist (Holy Communion) is highly encouraged and should be part of the service. In this way the congregation may fully participate, and be nourished by the sacrament of our common life. The priest plans the service using the Instructions for Survivors at the time of Death, in consultation with the family, and with the cooperation of the funeral home. Other organizational rites, such as Masonic or Fraternal, may be held at separate or earlier times. The Episcopal service has 4 parts: Liturgy of the Word, the Holy Eucharist, the Commendation, and the Committal (the Committal taking place at the location of the interment/immurement). In all situations, the service is not about death or about the deceased. It is about resurrection and our assurance of eternal life afforded all believers!
WHAT ABOUT MUSIC?
Hymns and other musical selections should be used in the service. The selections should be appropriate expressions of faith, promised in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Appropriately, all the music should be profoundly sacred music for its intended purpose in Christian worship. Sentimental songs have no place in a funeral, even though they may be favorites of the deceased. Hymns that fit within the context of the liturgy should bring hope, strength, comfort, and understanding to the gathered congregation. The priest and musician can assist with appropriate selections.
WHAT ARE THE FEES?
The funeral home will be able to explain everything related to costs of the services they provide to you (preplanning) or your family (when it happens). In relation to the services that the church provides, the organist/musician should be compensated for their time ($200). It is also customary to provide a donation to the Trinity Church Discretionary Fund (almoner’s fund for those in need). An ‘honorarium’ for the priest that provides the service is totally at the family’s discretion. There is no stated ‘fee’ for any services of the clergy.
WHAT ABOUT MEDICAL DIRECTIVES AND WILLS?
A medical directive appoints a Healthcare Proxy and gives instructions for how you would like to be treated if you are incapacitated. A medical directive is sometimes referred to as a living will or advanced directive, but it is not a will in the traditional sense of the word. In the Episcopal Church, we believe that your estate and end of life plans should reflect your values. Once you have expressed your values through writing your wishes for a funeral service, and have a medical directive then write or amend your will so that it reflects those values.
WHAT ABOUT MY POSSESSIONS?
Possessions and how we use them have a way of defining who we are and what we value. The same could be said with how we dispose of them. Consider the organizations you have supported during your life, especially your church, and how you will continue to support them with your legacy. Remembering Trinity in your will with a specific amount, a percentage and or contingency is a generous way to give thanks to God and continue to support the community that nurtured you in life. For example: If you pledge $2,600 per year, a $52,000 gift would replace your pledge (invested at 5% interest). If you wish to make a bequest to Trinity in your will please state:
I, ___________, hereby give, devise, and bequeath to the Rector, Wardens, and Vestry of Trinity Church Towsontown, 120 Allegheny Avenue, Towson, Maryland, 21204, ___ % of the rest, residue, and remainder of my estate (or the sum of $XX,XXX) to be used at their discretion to assist in the ministries of the Church.
IN THE HOPE OF RESURRECTION!
The liturgy for the dead is an Easter liturgy. It finds all its meaning in the resurrection. Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we, too, shall be raised. The liturgy, therefore, is characterized by joy, in the certainty that “neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” This joy, however, does not make human grief unchristian. The very love we have for each other in Christ brings deep sorrow when we are parted by death. Jesus himself wept at the grave of his friend. So, while we rejoice that one we love has entered into the nearer presence of our Lord, we sorrow in sympathy with those who mourn. ~ The Book of Common Prayer, page 507
This page is purely informational. Trinity Church is not engaged in offering any legal or medical advice. Laws vary from state to state and we urge you to contact your own financial planner, attorney and/or health care provider for those issues specific to your situation. For spiritual matters, please contact the priest.