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Michigan Church Hosts End-of-Life Seminar


One year ago Christine Tooker, a 52-year-old single mother of three, was diagnosed with a rare terminal cancer. When she saw an announcement in her church’s bulletin for a seminar titled “Meaningful Preparation for End of Life,” she signed up right away and brought along her sister.

Attendees at the end-of-life seminar listen intently.

“I was very interested in any information to make this planning easier for me,” said Tooker.

Tooker attends Covenant Life Christian Reformed Church in Grand Haven, Mich.

The Oct. 13 seminar included presenters from a funeral home, hospice, and an attorney from Barnabas Foundation. Topics ranged from wills, trusts, power of attorneys, and history of the hospice movement to the process of dying, patient advocates, and funeral costs and planning.

“Our goal is to help people have their affairs in order by having some discussions with the family ahead of time,” said Duane Smith, pastoral care assistant for the church. “When you are under stress is not the time to make these decisions.”

The seminar came out of Smith’s own experience with end-of-life situations. “I’ve had to plan a funeral under tragic circumstances—the death of my daughter at age 19. I’ve also watched friends struggle with deaths of their parents who were in their 90s. Although they had their estate plan done, no one had ever discussed the burial or cremation or funeral plans,” said Smith.

The legal aspect of preparing the appropriate documents was one of the highlights for the more than 25 attendees, who included members from churches other than Covenant Life.

For Cec Bradshaw, the seminar served as a catalyst and checklist for both his 91-year-old stepfather and his own preparation for the end of life.

“It brought light to my eyes that I needed to have my personal documents updated in a more urgent manner than I have been approaching them. Our health is good right now, but if my wife and I were to all of a sudden reach end of life, our assets would not be directed the way we want them,” said Bradshaw. “After experiencing this seminar, I believe it should be repeated and attended by anyone involved in pastoral care. It is an extremely meaningful two hours for anyone at any adult age.”

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