“in lieu of flowers”- books to help us die with dignity

Unfortunately, death can be complicated. For some of us, a life-threatening or terminal health situation forces us to face death and if we’re wise, to prepare ourselves and our family . In other cases, unprepared families are left to deal with it while also grieving.

Call me weird, but I enjoy reading obituaries because I enjoy learning about people. Some obits revel in listing the person’s achievements-education degrees, military service medals, business positions, public and volunteer service recognition;descriptions of  exotic travel, unique hobbies, special interests, creative pursuits and talents. 

One of my favorite obits was different; simple, yet revealing a wealth of information about a man known simply as Jim (edited slightly for privacy) 

“Jim, who died at 90 years old, was born on Valentine’s Day. He grew up on a farm,  joined the Army, and  went to a state teacher’s college on the GI Bill.

There he met his wife, and they had 2 children and 5 grandchildren. He earned a master’s degree and spent his professional life as a teacher of math, science, and social studies to elementary students. After retirement, he continued working as a tutor. 

Jim enjoyed backyard gardening, walking to the library, math problems, weather reports and local high school sports. Jim always put the needs of others before himself. 

In lieu of flowers please plant a flower, a tree, or even a vegetable garden. Jim would really like that.”

Despite his obituary’s simplicity, I feel like I knew Jim, he was someone I would have liked, even having as a neighbor. Obits don’t have to be complicated and fancy, and neither does life, if Jim is any proof. 

Unfortunately, death can be complicated. For some of us, a life-threatening or terminal health situation forces us to face death and if we’re wise, to prepare ourselves and our family . In other cases, unprepared families are left to deal with it while also grieving.

I have reviewed these two books that help us and our families make dying and death less arduous than it inevitably is. They cover the practical, financial, and social aspects of dying, as well as the medical, emotional, and spiritual aspects. Read them before you need them-because we all need them eventually. 

Dying with Ease- a book review

Dr. Spiess doesn’t suggest that confronted with terminal illness we refuse treatment and give up. He advocates thinking about and planning for the dying process long before we develop an illness that might be fatal.

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exploring the HEART of health

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There’s enough strife and tension in our world today. My prayer is that I be a peacemaker. I don’t desire to be known for my political stand, but my identity as a follower of Jesus and my stand for His Kingdom! Keith Wheeler

On February 10, 2020 Keith Wheeler left Tulsa Oklahoma for Tuvalu, a nation of Pacific islands just south of the equator. Lying halfway between Hawaii and Australia it is one of the most remote and least visited places on earth. But that is exactly the kind of place Keith likes to visit.

Keith on the airport runway in Tuvalu

For 37 years he has walked more than 26,000 miles, visited every continent and over 200 countries for one reason- to love people and share God’s love, carrying a 90 pound cross over his shoulder. Keith uses the cross to get people’s attention and show how much God loves them.

But when Keith returned to the US in March 2020, the world had changed. On March 12, the director of the World Health Organization declared the new COVID-19 infection a pandemic, and President Trump declared a national emergency for theUnited States. Travel, especially international travel, was curtailed drastically.

Keith would not leave the country again for almost a year, but he did not waste the time resting. He just changed the way he reached people. He continued walking in Oklahoma and nearby states and shared videos on his social media, writing

“Maybe some of those stories and the perspective gained can be an encouragement. I love the fact that even in these times of isolation we can stay connected through all our technology.”

In three previous posts I told you about my interview with Keith December of 2021 and a sermon he preached in Tulsa in February 2022. In this post I’m drawing from Keith’s social media posts and an interview with BURN podcaster Reese Black.

(I have edited some of Keith’s statements for clarity and conciseness. I have added scripture references when he did not.)

Back home in Tulsa, on March 28, 2020 Keith wrote,

“In the midst of all the fear, disruption, uncertainty, and confusion that’s going on in our world, we can be sure that our Father goes before us and walks together with us into the unknown.

Easter Sunday, April 10, 2020 churches were closed due to COVID. Keith was on the street to carry the cross- in his own home city Tulsa Oklahoma.

Keith carries the cross on Lewis Avenue, walking by the Praying Hands statue at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa Oklahoma
On that day he wrote on Facebook,

May the God of Hope deliver the gift of hope;

May the Prince of Peace guard hearts and minds with His perfect peace that passes all understanding;

May the Spirit of Comfort comfort & encourage hearts and

May the Savior of the World rescue and redeem lost and broken lives!

May 25, 2020

And then our country erupted into chaos, confusion, and confrontation.

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