Our life in this fallen world will be filled with many expected and unexpected forms of suffering. The curse in the Garden announced this, Jesus confirmed it in His teaching, and the experience of the New Testament church testifies of it. Therefore, as long as we live–awaiting the glorious return of the Savior, there will be need for biblically wise and compassionate counsel.
HELP! I’m Living with Terminal Illness is a resource from the pastoral heart of Reggie Weems. For those suffering with a terminal diagnosis and for their family and friends, this mini-book conveys practical advice, spiritual consolation, and, most importantly, an eternal hope which the dying process cannot diminish and death cannot extinguish.
In the first chapter, Weems provides several lists of action points. The following 8 action points fall under the heading “Planning Care,” and were derived from conversations with health-care and mental-health professionals as well as friends enduring the dying process.
- Death is an extremely emotive issue. The people around you may not know how to begin talking with you about it. Take the initiative to openly and candidly speak about end-of life concerns. It is also important to gain your family’s agreement on essential issues. Conduct private conversations if disagreement exists. You will not want to spend this important time in estrangement from those closest to you. Take the necessary time to encourage everyone to respect your decisions.
- Do your best to be open and clear about your wishes regarding medical care, financial concerns, your will, your funeral, and life after your death. Explain what caused you to make certain decisions. How do your decisions give meaning to your life and death?
- Share your end-of-life concerns. Do you desire independence? What will happen if or when you cannot remain independent? If this happens, with whom or how will you live? Would you prefer to die at home?
- Is there a hospice care facility in your vicinity? [For a very helpful discussion of the benefits of hospice, see Deborah Howard, Help! Someone I Love Has Cancer.] If so, I would encourage you to use their services. As a former board member of a local hospice and the husband of a former hospice nurse I know that hospice personnel combine professionalism and compassion in a unique way as they care for patients and families.
- If you currently have no ongoing Christian influence in your life, I recommend that you contact an evangelical minister of the gospel. He will certainly be willing to visit with you and your family to offer biblical counsel. Ask someone you love to call a Bible-believing, Bible-teaching church in your area to inquire for a pastoral visit.
- Do you have a living will or advanced directives that detail your medical preferences? Both will speak to the specifics of your medical care if you are unable to speak for yourself.
- Consider creating a durable power of attorney. It allows someone else to act on your behalf when you are unable to do so. A durable power of attorney can go into effect as soon as you sign it, when you deem it appropriate, or when a doctor confirms you are incapacitated. As long as you are mentally competent, you can revoke a durable power of attorney anytime you wish.
- Of course, every decision is subject to change. Maintain open lines of communication and keep the conversation going with your family and other significant people in your life. Your openness and frankness will encourage the same from others. Many important and meaningful discussions can be held during this time. You and everyone around you will benefit from the transparency you exhibit.
Other action point lists include “Funeral and Business Arrangements” and “Emotional and Relational Needs.”