Finishing Well: Leaving Behind a Strong Family

At the approach of death, Christians have the opportunity to leave behind something far more valuable than a piece of property or a bank account. The end of life is a time to reflect on our lives, examine our faith, and share mistakes and successes with those we love in a worshipful way. Taking time to have one-on-one conversations with people is a special way to pass along advice and encouragement. Additionally, a time of terminal illness is an opportunity to heal family wounds. A person approaching the end of life should not be afraid to gently address family rifts and guide the forgiveness process, as the impending death of a family member often creates a ready environment for healing.

Building closure with loved ones is an important part of dying well. Four simple things should be said frequently as one comes to the end of life:

  1. I love you.
  2. Thank you.
  3. Forgive me.
  4. I forgive you.

We should never assume that our actions (gift-giving, provision, etc.) are an excuse for not verbalizing these things. It is extremely important that surviving family members hear words of love, affirmation, and forgiveness from the person they will soon be parted from.

Finally, families should build some final memories in their last days together. Those approaching death should not be afraid to have fun and laugh with family members. If illness and age permit, traveling to see friends and family can spread a wider blessing in the final days. The process of dying should not be consumed with thoughts of death; after all, there is still life left between now and then. For the sake of blessing loved ones, make the most of it.

This article is adapted from Finishing Well to the Glory of God by John Dunlop, MD.

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