CIESIELSKI: Planning End-of-Life Care is a gift to yourself and loved ones

January 26, 2021

As we begin 2021, it offers us pause to reflect on the finiteness and fragility of life that this past year has brought us. St. Paul VI once stated: “In our youth, the days are short and the years are long. In old age, the years are short and the days long. Somebody should tell us, right from the start of our lives, that we are dying. Then we might live to the limit every minute of every day. Do it! I say, whatever you want to do, do it now! There are only so many tomorrows!”

During the past year, the Office of Aging has partnered with other Archdiocesan offices and community organizations to develop practical and pastoral resources for end-of-life planning. The planning process provides the opportunity to address in writing the wishes you want, temporal and spiritual — while you still have the capacity to do so.
This is not an easy or comfortable subject to discuss.

A woman once recollected to me a story of how she had discussed her mother’s detailed wishes for her end-of-life care and funeral. A sibling of the daughter was uncomfortable with the subject and had chosen not to be part of the conversation. When their mother died unexpectedly, she noted that she was at odds with her sister regarding their mother’s funeral arrangements. When she told her sister that she was representing what her mom wanted, her sister requested her mom’s funeral wishes in writing, which, in fact, had never been recorded.

The result was a tension-filled situation. This story contrasts with my own parents, having prepared and shared their end-of-life planning with my siblings and me. I later cherished their doing so as a gift at the time of my father’s death. It freed our family to focus on grieving and not on making funeral arrangements. It is ultimately your choice in how you want to write the last chapter for your life.

Essential tasks for planning end-of-life care:

• Communicating end-of-life wishes with loved ones;
• Recording wishes in legal documents (e.g., will, advance directives, powers of attorney);
• Creating a legacy of spiritual values and beliefs, and possessions to leave to others; and
• Making final arrangements for your pastoral care, funeral and burial.

Making these decisions now can free you to do the things that you still want to do and find closure for any unfinished business. Yes, there may be an element of anxiety in the process, but invoking the Holy Spirit’s gifts of wisdom, understanding and courage can generate a peace-filled planning process for yourself and your loved ones.

The Office of Aging stands ready to support you in the planning process with practical and pastoral resources in audio and visual formats. For end-of-life planning resources, visit

For additional help, contact Mark Ciesielski at or call 713-741-8712. †

Mark Ciesielski is an associate director in the Office of Aging Ministry.