Joyce Moseley Pierce, our official Family Preparedness Expert
I guess I'm old enough now that it's not that unusual for people younger than me to be dying! In the past month I've been to a funeral for a 20 year old who died in his sleep from cardiac arrest, another man close to my age just died two weeks after learning he had Stage 4 cancer, and just this week, the son of a friend died in his sleep. Reason for death has not yet been determined. While we'd all like to just slip away in the middle of the night, hopefully pain-free and unaware that we've even left this world behind, the passing still leaves a huge void in the lives of those who loved the one who died.
I'm the one who's always encouraging people to record the information that will help their loved ones continue after they're gone. While I do believe that being prepared helps remove a huge burden from the family, I believe there are other things that are even more important.
Here are a few suggestions. I believe they're listed in the order of importance.
1. Get yourself straight with God. If you're carrying the burden of sin in your life, repent and ask to be forgiven. If those sins are of a more serious nature, confess them to your clergy and ask for help. There are steps to be taken. While it's better to ask forgiveness on a daily basis in your prayers, confession at any time means that you recognize your sins and are willing to do whatever it takes to leave them behind. Don't drag them with you to the Pearly Gates.
2. Make sure your relationships are in order. If someone has hurt you, go to them and offer them your forgiveness. If you've hurt someone else, let them know you've forgiven them. When my mother was dying, the hospice nurse encouraged us to get it all out while we still could. We spent the next month apologizing and reaffirming our love for each other, and by the time she passed away, both of our hearts were lighter.
3. Write letters. Put your feelings in writing. Loved ones appreciate having a piece of you to hold on to after you're gone. If your family is really lucky, you've been keeping a journal that will give them a record of your life.
Read Joyce's entire article You Have One Week to Live