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​Twenty-Five years ago my bishop gave us priests a deadline: “By March 15, I want your funeral plan on my desk. I’m tired of you guys dying without telling me how you want to be buried!” My friends and I were in our thirties and certainly thought we had better ways to spend our time than planning our own funerals. Nobody wanted to think about our own personal “D-Day.” I procrastinated for a few months but finally bit the bullet and planned my own funeral, including my last will and testament, and threw in some advanced health care directives for good measure. I stuffed it all into a large manila envelope and took it down to the local post office. Dropping that package in the mail felt very good. I realized that I was a free man. I was packed and ready to go. I had no more worries about life or death, and I was in God’s hands.

I highly recommend planning your own funeral, writing your will, and stating your advance health care directives now. Your funeral is really the only thing between you and heaven. I have noticed that those who avoid thinking about their own death live with a kind of nameless but dark apprehension: how long do I have left? How will I die? What will happen after I die? On the other hand, those who have bravely made friends with “sister death” (in St. Francis’ disarming words) are freed from those fears. They’ve looked death in the face and stared it down. Those who have surrendered themselves to God “have already died with Christ,” St. Paul says in Romans 6:8. Death no longer frightens them.

In two months I’m leading a group to France for the 80th anniversary of D-Day, June 6, 1944. We will visit many holy places, such as Notre Dame Cathedral and the Shrine of the Miraculous Medal in Paris, the Carmelite convent and basilica of St. Thérèse in Lisieux, and the great monastery of Le Mont Saint Michel. But we will also spend three days at the Normandy beaches of Omaha and Utah, and we will pray at the vast military cemeteries behind those beaches. Most of these men feared death as their troop ships approached the German lines, but they had already written farewell letters to their families and given their wills to the military superiors. Most believed in God and His ultimate care for them, and they were ready to die. For that reason, the beaches and cemeteries are worthy of Christian pilgrimage.

Most of us will not die as they died, but all of us will die. Once we’ve planned our own funerals, we have only to look forward to the resurrection.

From Father Illo’s Blog

Watch Mary Rose and Father Illo discuss this topic