Inspiring Generosity


The Church Talks about Death! Part 3 – Starting the Conversation


                       Borrow this for yourself (w/ thanks to Marysville UMC)

This is it! The finale! The last blog post (for now) about death! Hooray! And friends, I have saved the best for last. Because some day, I just have to believe, this pandemic will be over. We will be able to see each other face-to-face or, at the very least, mask-to-mask and have workshops once again. Oh, what a day that’ll be.

To re-cap, Part 1 looked at hosting a Zoom workshop on Advanced Directives. Part 2 invited people to participate in legacy giving by leaving a gift in their will. Now, as you do your future planning for when we can meet in person, I highly recommend that you take a look at the fine work that Rev. Tanya Spaur Pile from Marysville United Methodist Church (WA) did around death and dying. She hosted a pre-pandemic three-hour workshop about the topic. And guess what? 45 people showed up. People are hungering for this information.

Rev. Tanya sent me information how she did this workshop and she gave me permission to share it with you. Here’s Rev. Tanya:
The main goal of “The Art of Dying Well: A Crash Course in End-of-Life Conversations,” was to make the conversation less terrifying for people. Subsequently, we spent time emphasizing the following points:

A. Talking about death is very difficult. What euphemisms do we use for the word “death”?
B. Death is a natural, inevitable process and as Christians we have been promised the hope of Resurrection.
C. Grief is individual (there’s no right or wrong way to "do" grief) whether it’s the death of a mother or a grandfather – i.e., some deaths are painful at the beginning and then fade, some deaths linger in your heart and soul for a long time – these differences are natural. (Cesie here, I want to add a beautiful conversation about grief between Anderson Cooper and Stephen Colbert.)
D. When you’re in contact with your siblings at a stressful time, sometimes those old arguments, birth order dynamics, and favoritism come into play – no matter how old you are.
E. When death and money collide, stress can ensue. But, if you plan ahead, you can lessen the stress level or even change the death-plus-money-equals-stress narrative.
Each person at the workshop was provided with a pen, a small 5X7 legal notepad, and a package of Kleenex. There were three breaks built into the schedule, one of which was on the longer side so they could eat brunch. And, each person was given a folder with:
3. Hospice of the Northwest, Myth vs. Reality Handout
4. Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST) Brochure with a (WA) POLST form (here’s the OR POLST brochure)
5. 16 Things Smart People Do to Prepare for Death Handout – includes interesting items such as, "They figure out their Facebook future" and, "They Say Four Things: Forgive Me, I Forgive You, Thank You, I Love You"
6. List of Hymns for Memorials
7. List of Scriptures for Memorials
8. Template of our standard Memorial Order of Worship – with the assurance that people have the freedom to make it unique
9. Gone from My Sight: The Dying Experience by hospice nurse, Barbara Karnes

There was a book display on death and grief topics as well.
We had three main speakers: Rev. Dr. Judy Jewell, a retired PNW pastor who worked for many funeral homes; Julia Frisbie, Associate Director of the Northwest United Methodist Foundation; and myself. We had scheduled a speaker from Hospice Northwest that canceled – so I took up that portion of the conversation, too.  
I enlisted a clergy person to role play really tough end-of-life conversations with me. The goal of the role playing was to:
-  demonstrate how awkward the conversation can be,
-  show how frank and unapologetic it can be (you can put people at ease by being transparent about your wishes and…acknowledging that we all die – there’s no way around it)
-  illustrate how disastrous it can be (we can’t guarantee how people will react, but we can open the door for conversation). 
We role played two scenarios: 1. A character storming out because she did not want to talk to her mother about her terminal diagnosis. 2. A straightforward conversation about death sprinkled with humor. This modeled an intended and hope-filled outcome.
Julia Frisbie from the Northwest United Methodist Foundation also spoke about financial issues related to death and dying. Her presentation was so good that people wanted to hear more from her. Our plan is to have a post-COVID-19 “End-of-Life Conversations 2.0.” 

And that is how you do it, friends. I want to thank Rev. Tanya for her willingness to share this information with me (and now with you). I’ve said it before, but let me say it again, death is hard. Grief is hard. And yet, as people of faith, we are not walking through that process alone; we have the strong arms of a loving God to lean on. As people full of hope, getting the conversation started about death and dying is something the church should take the lead on. Rev. Tanya and Marysville UMC have provided a blueprint for making that conversation easier and less awkward.

Cesie Delve Scheuermann (pronounced “CC Delv Sherman,” yes, really) is a consultant in stewardship, development, and grant writing. Over the past fifteen years, while working as a volunteer and part-time consultant, she helped raise over three million dollars for numerous non-profit organizations. After all this talk about death, she’s up for a little “Oh Happy Day.” Try not to tap your feet while listening. She is available to consult with churches. You can reach her at inspiringgenerosity@gmail.com or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/inspiringgenerosity or at CesieScheuermann.com.


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Cesie Delve Scheuermann
Cesie Delve Scheuermann is consultant in grant writing and stewardship/development working with the Conference. From 2008-12 she was the Conference Lay Leader for the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference.