For the past eighteen years I have conducted hundreds of funerals. During these years I have learned a few things about human nature.
I have learned that people react very differently to the death of a loved one or friend. Many are silent, sharing very little, others share much, some laugh, cry, express their anger, and regrets. There is always sadness and remorse. Everyone deals with death differently, it is not good or bad, it may be different than how you react, but it is just how people are.
There are always unanswered questions, lost opportunities, and unresolved issues. It is these unanswered questions, lost opportunities, and unresolved issues I want to share a few simple suggestions to those who want to enjoy a great hand-off when they pass from this life into the next.
There are many good and great hand-offs found in the Bible we can learn from. Abraham, father of Jews, Muslims, and Christians has a short epitaph, “Abraham breathed his last and died in a ripe old age, an old man and satisfied with life; and he was gathered to his people” (Genesis 25:8). “satisfied with life” this is what I want to be when I die, satisfied.
Every family has issues, problems, and strained relationships. From the Bible, we learn to address these issues in our lives before death separates and causes even more confusion and pain in our families. Pride is the enemy of a good relationships. Your humility will be healing to a wounded family member.
“If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men” (Romans 12:18). If you can set your pride aside, make the effort to apologize for the separation, harsh words or whatever the issues exist, your hand-off will be good. If you do not take the lead in healing your family, your funeral will be just that, a funeral and not a celebration of your life.
Write letters to your family and close friends. This may seem quaint, but it is one of the best things you can do to leave your family with peace, comfort, unity, and encouragement.
The apostle Paul did this very thing. Paul was in prison, while awaiting his execution he wrote his last letter to his young protégé Timothy. Paul encouraged Timothy with this, “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Timothy 4:6-8).
Encouraging your family and friends in a personal letter will be a blessing and serve as motivation for the remainder of their lives.
Often, I have family members and friends speak of their desire to know more personal history and experiences of a loved one or friend. People want to know what challenges you experienced, your fears, what you learned from your failures. Others want to know why you lived the way you lived, why you believed what you believed. They want to know what has made you who you are. Write your life story and save it, they will read it and it will help them during the difficulties of their life.
In the Bible, God makes sure we see people in all their humanity, failures, regrets, sins, and decisions. Why does God share all these private scenes? Because God wants you to know He forgives people who have thought, said, or done worse than you. We are not the first sinners God has dealt with.
Life has been described as a race. At the end of your race the great hand-off from you to the next generation is up to you. At the end of your life, will you have the same expression shared over you as Abraham was described, “satisfied.” Will you be satisfied at the end of your life?
How will you handle your great hand-off?