Planning for death is a matter for the living
TAYLORS—Close to 200 people received advice last week on a subject many avoid.
Msgr. Steven L. Brovey led a two-hour discussion on death, dying and end-of-life issues held at Prince of Peace Church in Croghan Hall.
Joining him in the discussion was Franciscan Father Ray Selker, of St. Francis Hospital in Greenville, along with representatives from Thomas McAfee Funeral Home in Greenville.
Msgr. Brovey, who is pastor at Prince of Peace, said many Catholics aren’t familiar with the church’s traditions when it comes to caring for the dying and the dead.
“As Catholics, we don’t sanitize death,” Msgr. Brovey said. “We live a full life through God’s grace, but we also know we’re going to die.”
He said many people don’t plan for their own death or that of a loved one, thus depriving themselves and their family of the grace in preparing to meet God.
“We need to pray for that grace,” Msgr. Brovey said.
Most will wait until it’s almost too late before notifying a priest of a family member’s or friend’s pending death. That delay often means that the dying person and family don’t get to fully appreciate what it means to die as a Catholic.
Msgr. Brovey said it’s important to notify a priest while the dying person is still conscious simply because it provides an opportunity to make a thorough confession, and allows the priest to reflect with the person and his family on the reality of death.
That early contact with a priest also gives a family time to fully prepare for the wake, funeral Mass and burial of their loved one.
Msgr. Brovey said that while wakes are “falling out of favor” with many Catholics, it is important to say goodbye to the person’s body.
“It’s important to the whole grieving process,” he said.
The funeral Mass is intended as a solemn occasion, the monsignor said, where the church is commending the person’s soul to heaven or to purgatory.
Eulogies typically are conducted at either the wake or the reception, but not at the funeral Mass, he said.
The liturgy is followed by burial of the body and the reception.
Msgr. Brovey said the church prefers burial of the body to cremation, but if cremation is preferred it is to be conducted after the funeral Mass.
Father Selker, who works with hospice at Bon Secours St. Francis, said South Carolina residents can legally let their families and health care professionals know their intentions should they need medical care but are unable to speak for themselves.
He said all residents should have a living will and health care power of attorney document, along with an advance directive that spells out in writing what health care providers can and can’t do should a person need medical attention, whether it’s in a hospital, doctor’s office or hospice.
“You own the responsibility of your health with these documents,” Father Selker said.
Tom and Charlotte Allgaier, who are members of Prince of Peace, said the discussion helped answer some of their questions and concerns.
“It was very good,” Allgaier said. “I’m a procrastinator and this was like a wake-up call for us. We’re both 68 and we haven’t even thought about what we need to do.”
The power of attorney and advance directive documents are available, along with instructions, in both English and Spanish, at no charge from the S.C. Hospital Association. Call (864) 255-1093.
Forms can be downloaded from the St. Francis Web site at www.stfrancishealth.org.