A book spanning numerous topics under one theme, end-of-life, can only find its culmination from collaborative work. I am blessed to call so many people friends, and this collection of lifelong friends have given you and me a gift. Their shared experience will help you to enhance your legacy pertaining to end-of-life.
Lauren Craig, you have been my prayer partner and encourager. It was the Lord who prompted me to write a book. You embraced that calling with support then, and it has not stopped. I wish everyone could feel as loved and supported as I do. Thank you, and I love you.
I thank each one of you for helping me make this vision a reality. As each of you gave of your time and knowledge, you were being used by our Creator, who set me on this path. I am forever grateful!
Barrie Sandy, thank you for sharing your industry knowledge and passion to help people. You are a gifted communicator. I am grateful for your friendship over the last seventeen years, which includes praying for one another, and now collaboration on this book!
Kent Kuhlmann, you have been a financial planner and friend to me. I appreciate you sharing your expertise on estate planning and making yourself available anytime I wanted to talk.
Rena Robinson, your caring nature, and loving spirit are qualities I love about you. Both of those qualities came out in your writing. You are treasured and appreciated.
Dr. John Armstrong, for well over twenty years, we have laughed, prayed, and supported one another. I am grateful for your friendship and contribution to my book. Let’s keep playing pranks on one another!
Phil Handley, you are an incredible friend! If friendship was measured by the way a person supports someone else, then you are the definition of it. Thank you for the years of support. I love your family and look forward to many more years of friendship.
Steven Paris, I recognized the compassion you have for people as soon as we met. Your choice of words, body language when talking about helping people, and faith and commitment to your profession are exceptional. I am proud to know you, and I am grateful for your contribution to this book. Thank you, my friend.
Ken Graham, your story about why you became a funeral director is worthy of being a book. Your passion for your profession—serving others in their time of need—is what I respect most about you. Thank you for always answering my questions, contributing as an author, and being a friend. You are a gift!
Kathryn Denham, I love your sweet spirit. You make me and everyone around you feel calm and content. Thank you for your insight into the grief journey and your authorship in this book. I am blessed to know you.
Lon Dreyer, I always enjoy my time with you. I am grateful for who you are and the care you show families we work with. Your availability to answer questions I have, and in-depth knowledge of the funeral industry has proven invaluable. Our friendship is special to me. Thank you.
Timothea “TJ” Galoner, your prayers, insight, and knowledge of your industry have been a constant encouragement to me. Your willingness to tell me “like it is” has been a fresh reminder that people care about this book and me enough to share truth. Thank you, my friend!
Cassie McKee, asking you to relive one of the hardest parts of your life was difficult, but you answered the calling and shared your experience for the readers of this book. I am forever grateful and treasure our friendship then and today. Thank you.
Carolyn Skinner, thank you for sharing your life experience with such honesty and boldness, draped in humility and faith in our Lord. Your faith has helped me increase my faith. Thank you for sharing your story.
Jeff Roberts, you have played so many important roles in my life: prayer partner, mentor, church leader, and lifelong friend. Having you share your story in this book proves to me that you want to help others, and your courage to do so is proof of that. Grace and peace to you, my friend.
Editing and Guidance
Sarah Barnum, of TrailBlaze Writing & Editing, the only thing I would change about us working together is—it should have happened one year earlier. Your expertise and personality made me look forward to every one of your emails and suggestions. Thank you is not enough. Grateful is how I feel about you. Thank you.
Vicki Voitier, I am blessed to have a mother-in-law who is so fun to be around. You have been such a contributor to this book with editing and suggestions. I have loved our time together sharing opinions, debating over the details, and now, succeeding together. Thank you for your countless hours, love, and support.
Dr. Bill Mathis, as a licensed psychologist with professional experiences ranging from clinical psychology and private practice therapy to working for local and state government officials as well as the CIA and FBI, your expertise and experience amaze me. Most importantly for me, though, is that you have been a confidant, friend, and mentor personally and for this book. Thank you, Dr. Bill!
Rob Voitier, without your efforts in gaining written permission to use others’ literary work, there would be a void in this book. I am grateful for your contribution to this book and my life as a father-in-law.
Creative: Website and Book Design
Erik Bjarnason, you are a creative, intelligent, caring person who has a gift for articulating your thoughts. I am so thankful for your upbeat personality, insight into life, and willingness to work together on this project to develop my website and graphics. I am grateful for having you in my life.
Thank you, Shawn Montoya, for being part of this book in a very artistic way. I look forward to using more of your artwork with my next book. You are an incredible photographer, as people can see with the front cover.
W hat do I do now? We were supposed to be together forever!”
The woman I was counseling had just lost her spouse that very morning. As we talked, she revealed not only her pain, distress, and disbelief, but also her grief, compounded by fear—fear stemming from lack of direction. She and her daughter did not know what to do. Could this story also be your story, or that of a relative, friend, or colleague? It doesn’t have to end this way, but too often, it does.
End-of-life conversations are not easy for most people. Culturally, the United States has grown less interested in preparing for death. We have no problem planning for life, but death—that’s something we’d rather avoid thinking about. As a result, planning for end-of-life often does not receive the same investment as other life priorities, leaving no clear map laid out for navigating the rough terrain ahead. I have learned through both personal and professional experiences that when the person on the opposite side of the table leans toward me and clears his or her throat only to whisper, “What do I do now?” it is a clear indication that little to no time has been spent having those difficult, yet critical, end-oflife conversations. Many do not know how to successfully travel through this journey; they simply find themselves traveling on the journey, hoping that someone—a confidant, family member, or friend—will walk it with them. But often, that is not enough.
My friend, as you walk this challenging journey, know that I have walked it too. As an ordained Christian pastor trained in this area of ministry, I’ve officiated more than 150 funerals and memorials and have counseled countless people in pre-need and at-need stages. I’ve also navigated the loss of several of my own family members. I thank God that I can use my experiences to help others.
The catalyst for this book stems from the loss of my brother and his disappointing funeral service as the result of poor planning. In contrast, my wife’s memorial service was attended by more than 200 people from around the globe. My mom passed away six months later followed with a simple, yet honoring memorial service. Ten years after my mom’s death, my dad passed, and the way we honored him and memorialized his legacy will live on in our hearts.
To present the best guidance possible, I have called upon professionals in various fields to co-author this book with me. I will introduce their contributions in each chapter. For more information about these contributing authors, see the Contributor section at the end of this book. Please allow us the privilege of guiding you through this process with the hope of easing some of the more practical burdens so you can truly honor and memorialize your loved one. View this book as a map, with the starting point being wherever you are today in this journey, pointing you down a path that is well-worn, yet seldom revealed.
When It’s Time will introduce and highlight thirteen topics to consider for end-of-life arrangements. Whether life insurance, trusts and wills, organ donation, funeral/memorial services, veteran’s benefits, or employee bereavement leave, this is your guidebook.
I have authored this book with two readers in mind: those who are “pre-need” planners making plans in advance for their own end-of-life, and those who are “at-need” survivors dealing with the death of a loved one. If end-of-life is not imminent and you are planning pre-need, I encourage you to read this book in chronological order. By doing so, you will find a systematic approach on how to prepare for your or a loved one’s end-of-life. You will soon learn that the process involves more than just planning a funeral or memorial service.
You will begin to develop a team of family members, friends, business partners, and professionals, such as funeral directors, financial planners, attorneys, insurance agents, medical professionals, tax preparers, and work colleagues, who will each have a role in your end-of-life plan. I have learned that planning early in life—especially if you have a young family, a family with one income earner, or are a single person of age—is a tremendous gift that you leave for your surviving family. It is never too late to offer this expression of love to your survivors.
On the other hand, if you are a reader who is at-need due to the recent death of a loved one, then jump to the chapters that address your current place in the process. In these cases, you may only have hours or days to become equipped. The content is meant to assist you at your very moment of need. You will still have to build a team of people to assist you, so reading the applicable chapters associated with your journey will be your best plan of action. Also, make sure to check out the “Survivor’s Checklist©” in the appendix. This invaluable resource will guide you through the days following the loss of a loved one. As a pastor, I see the value of planning for the inevitability of death each time I sit with survivors after the loss of a loved one.
Those who pre-plan for end-of-life give their survivors an incredible gift. The time they invested in planning allows survivors to grieve without the anxiety-producing guesswork. When I meet with survivors of someone who pre-planned, we talk about their loved one’s legacy and the impact it has made. As they share stories about their loved one (frequently causing a good belly laugh), the conversation turns to the deceased’s character traits, personal values, convictions, and contributions to society. After a while, our discourse becomes more focused on the details of the service, my role as the officiant, and the focus of the message.
Conversely, when I sit with the family of someone who has not planned for end-of-life, or if the death has occurred suddenly and without the option of pre-planning, the questions are noticeably different. Initially, the questions by the at-need survivors involve the financial aspect of a funeral or memorial. Then the deliberation begins: cremation versus casket, location of burial, venue for the service, speakers, music, food, and more. The list of questions consumes our time together and continues over the phone for a couple of days. Without pre-planning, the at-need survivors are not only grieving their loss, but they are also thrust into decision-making that is exhausting, and quite often, it entails guessing what the deceased would have wanted versus knowing what to do.
When It’s Time is your comprehensive guide for this inevitable journey. Some chapters will address pre-need topics, some will address at-need topics, and some will address both. Chapters addressing both will be divided by pre-need and at-need headings for easy reference. At the end of each chapter is a section titled “Action Steps.” These action steps capture key points in can also equip you to have conversations with family members and professionals as part of planning. Since end-of-life conversations tend to be difficult, having common talking points to discuss can help start the process. Lastly, some action steps will encourage a time of reflection as you determine your own last wishes.
Whether you are reading this book pre-need or at-need, you have made a conscious choice that will place you well ahead of others when making end-of-life decisions. I encourage you to share your progress with your family or those closest to you who will be part of your team. End-of-life conversations can be challenging, but also rewarding. My most heartfelt professional encouragement for you is this: Start the journey now, and let it be part of your legacy!