Saint Meinrad Seminary & School of Theology

Formation and Education for the Life of the Church

Final Arrangements

by Ann Cavera


During an annual review, we were asked to provide copies of our funeral plans and wills. Shocked, we looked at each other as though the reviewer had just asked to see our tickets for a flight to Antarctica. Though we have had our wills in place for some time, we have yet to get around to making funeral plans.

We reacted with shock, in spite of the fact that in my parents' last years, they often spoke freely with us about their final arrangements. Now, having to think of ourselves as standing on the end of the same runway where they once stood has caused a high degree of alertness in our brains.

It isn't that we plan to stay here forever. In fact, most of the time we consider our bags to be already half-packed. However, writing funeral plans feels too much like we are tossing our toothbrushes in the suitcase and zipping it shut.

Our wills are simple things. Anything we have left is to be divided among our children and grandchildren. One thing we both place a high value on is our recliners. Since we plan to pass away in these chairs, we don't suppose anyone will want them after we're gone. Other than those chairs, we aren't too worried about most of the things we will leave behind.

What concerns us more is whether we still have some unfinished spiritual business. Spiritually, we meant to accomplish so much more than we actually have. Like many people, we have postponed, ignored and pushed away many things we meant to take care of until a more convenient time. Since none of us will reach perfection in this life, we might be tempted to make excuses for poor progress in some areas.

A friend of ours who carries a few extra pounds once had chest pains while she was grocery shopping. Being a hardy soul, she left the store and drove herself to the hospital, where she was relieved to learn she was not having a heart attack. Later she said, "You know, all I could think about was that I was going to have to lay there fat in my coffin."

The Old Testament writer, Sirach, reminds us that life is too short to hold on to anything that weighs us down. Spiritually, we'd rather rise like hot air balloons, soaring above the earth while carrying as little as possible.

During Lent, we have an opportunity to practice giving up and letting go so that we can leave our spiritual baggage behind. Do we still need to ask forgiveness from someone we have hurt? Who still needs to hear a word of forgiveness from us? What unspiritual practices do we need to jettison? What opportunities to care for others have we been missing?

Lent is a good time to look around, let go of lesser things, and pare down to what is good and useful. No one wants to end up heavy with anger, pride or greed when everything is said and done. 

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Echoes from the Bell Tower is a blog devoted to observations on Christian faith, spirituality and everyday events, by authors with a connection to the Benedictine values found at Saint Meinrad Archabbey and its Seminary and School of Theology. Contributors include students, permanent deacons, Benedictine oblates and Saint Meinrad monks. Their stories, thoughts and ideas highlight the mission and vision that ring out from the bell towers on this Hill in southern Indiana.