Ciesielski: Planning End-of Life Care

November 27, 2018

St. Paul VI once reflected: In our youth, the days are short and the years are long. In old age, the years are short and the day’s 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!

“Planning today for our tomorrows” has recently been added to the Office of Aging Ministry’s emphasis on education for end-of-life care. End-of-life care is a term used to describe the support and medical care given to a person during the last part of their lives.

For many people, talking about end-of-life care can stir up a lot of strong emotions such as fear, anxiety, or guilt. At times, it includes overwhelming feelings of anticipated loss and the grief associated with it. Family, friends and even those in the medical profession may be uncomfortable having conversations about this subject and avoid discussing the matter, fearful that it will cause people to become upset.
Yet the words from St. Paul and Jesus seek to reassure us (1 Thes.4:13-14): “We do not want you to be unaware, brothers, about those who have fallen asleep, so that you may not grieve like the rest, who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose, so too will God, through Jesus, bring with Him those who have fallen asleep.”

And Jesus seeks to console his friend, Martha, on the occasion of her brother Lazarus’ death (John 11:25-26): “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

Margie Jenkins, the author of “You Only Die Once,” offers another perspective for thoughtful end-of-life planning. She suggests that such planning can be a gift to others.

In addition to relieving the burden of financial, medical and funeral decision-making by loved ones, it empowers the planner to exercise control over many of the choices that may occur when the person no longer possesses the physical or mental capacity to do so. Such planning done prudently can shift the emphasis from a state of anxiety to a focus on one’s blessings, shared memories and values including how one wants to celebrate the remaining days or years of one’s life.

Whether one chooses to do end-of-life planning willingly or not, life has a way of eventually forcing the issue. Such foresight and planning can make all the difference between being prepared or unprepared when that reality occurs.

The Office of Aging Ministry is working to offer educational opportunities to families as well as formation for parish staffs to address the following aspects of “End-of-Life Care”:

  • How to start the “hard-to-have” end-of-life conversations;
  • Getting one’s essential legal, medical and financial plans in order;
  • How to pass on one’s cherished memories, values and treasured possessions; and
  • How to plan one’s personal funeral arrangements as well as prepare for eternal life.

For more information on end-of-life care and planning, contact Mark at 713-741-8712 or 

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