A fat package sat in my letter box today and it yielded a booklet entitled Understanding HOTA—Human Organ Transplant Act. Produced by Singapore’s Health Ministry, it’s sent to all households where a member is approaching the legal adult age of 21. That’s because HOTA allows the kidneys, liver, heart and corneas of all adult citizens and permanent residents to be used for transplantation after death unless the person is “mentally disordered” or specifically objected while alive.
There’s a form for those wanting to opt out, along with a caution that doing so would mean lower priority if the objector needs an organ in future. Another form gives the choice of donating additional body parts under MTERA—Medical (Therapy, Education and Research) Act.
And thus a conversation ensued between my older son and me on my preferences upon death.
Just an hour earlier, a kind neighbour Angela who cooked me a delicious lunch had recommended maintaining a fuss-free collection of personal effects so that those we leave behind wouldn’t be burdened with extensive sorting out and clearing up. After all, she reminded me, there’s a saying that goes, “One man’s treasure is another man’s garbage.” So I was challenged afresh to streamline my possessions. I’d written previously about seeking to lead an unfettered life free of joy-draining emotional baggage and clutter. But books, documents and gadgets have a way of sneaking up on you!
A bible verse comes to mind, and here’s The Message version:
“Don’t hoard treasure down here where it gets eaten by moths and corroded by rust or—worse!—stolen by burglars. Stockpile treasure in heaven, where it’s safe from moth and rust and burglars. It’s obvious, isn’t it? The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being.” –Matthew 6:19-21
Then there’s the beautiful promise in Psalm 55:22, “Pile your troubles on God’s shoulders—He’ll carry your load, He’ll help you out. He’ll never let good people topple into ruin.” And 1 Peter 5:7 urges us, “Casting the whole of your care [all your anxieties, all your worries, all your concerns, once and for all] on Him, for He cares for you affectionately and cares about you watchfully.” How comforting!
Back to my list of deathbed preferences—the reason for the title of this post. My sweet boy said, “Mum, please write them down somewhere as I hope it’ll be many decades before I need it, and I might forget by then.” So here it is…
*Life Support & Organ Donation
The HOTA booklet, written in the four official languages of Singapore—English, Malay, Chinese and Tamil—explains the difference between cardiac death and brain death, and between comatose and brain dead. As one who believes in the sovereignty of God, I do not believe in giving up hope because He can perform miracles that defy medical science, as many real life testimonies attest to. When it’s time for my earthly life to end, I know that my Lord will let me breathe my last naturally. And therein lies the controversy surrounding turning off life support at the recommendation of doctors. With my belief that God is ultimately in control, is it better for me to opt out of HOTA while I’m alive, so that my loved ones would have the final say instead of medical professionals? I’m reviewing this issue thoroughly.
After I die, I’d be happy to donate every organ and all tissues that can be harvested to benefit the living. After all, “Then shall the dust [out of which God made man’s body] return to the earth as it was, and the spirit shall return to God who gave it.” -Ecclesiastes 12:7
I like the way bible scholar John Piper puts it, “Burying your loved one is a sign that you believe in the resurrection. The body is precious. I know it decomposes; we’re talking symbolic significance. God created it, He’s going to resurrect it, there’s going to be continuity between what you were and what you are so that you can recognise each other. You want to symbolically put it to rest because that’s the language of the bible—you’re sleeping. He will waken those who sleep.” 1 Thessalonians 5:10 states, “Whether we are still alive or are dead [at Christ’s appearing], we might live together with Him and share His life.”
*Songs At The Wake & Funeral
I’ve asked my loved ones to refer to my favourite songs in the blog page Carol In A Nutshell. A must-have is “Blessed Be Your Name” which contains the powerful line from Job 1:21, “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; blessed (praised and magnified in worship) be the name of the Lord!” My good and just God has the perfect perspective and I know His timing is always ideal, never too early or too late.
“Jesus wept”—the shortest verse in the bible. It is God who gave us humans a range of emotions, and it is healthy to properly grieve the loss of someone you love. Every treasured family member and good friend is a gift and blessing from the Lord and we’ll miss their company when they’re no longer around. But underlying and underscoring the sorrow at a Christian’s death is the glorious hope that he or she has “graduated” to eternity.
“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for those who love Him [who hold Him in affectionate reverence, promptly obeying Him and gratefully recognising the benefits He has bestowed].”
–1 Corinthians 2:9
“Death is not the extinguishing of the Light but the turning down of the lamp because the Dawn has come.”
Last Words of Great Christian Leaders:
“The best of all is, God is with us. Farewell! Farewell!”
–John Wesley (Co-founder of the Methodist movement)
“Live in Christ, live in Christ, and the flesh need not fear death.”
–John Knox (Leader, Scottish Protestant Reformation)
“Our God is the God from whom cometh salvation: God is the Lord by whom we escape death.”
–Martin Luther (Initiator, Protestant Reformation)