The Conversation

Contributed by Donald Armstrong

On Shabbat Shuvah, I talked about the surprise of my near-death experiences and the questions they raised: Are my affairs in order? Have I made things right with my family and friends? Am I ready to be judged? My drash touched on: (1) the unpredictable timing, but absolute certainty of death; (2) the adverse impact that procrastination has on families when their loved one passes; and (3) the need for shalom bayit in the preparations for one’s death.

I also focused on the need to have “The Conversation” with one’s family and friends. What is the Conversation about? It is about making your final arrangements when you are capable. The Conversation is simple: You will not live forever. You may die sooner than you expect because bad stuff can happen to anyone. Get your affairs in order. Purchase your burial plots and burial services before you need them. Don’t wait and don’t burden your spouse, your children or other kin with your loose ends.

As many of you know, I am the owner and sole manager of Abraham’s Garden, a Jewish cemetery located in Hawaiian Memorial Park in Kaneohe. I got into the cemetery business because, when I went to purchase Jewish burial plots, there were no spaces available for my wife and I to be buried next to each other. But you should have the Conversation wherever you decide to be buried.

So what is a good death? It is a death with shalom bayit, a death where all family affairs and relationships are put in order before the grief caused by the passing of a loved one. It is a death like Moshe’s, not a death like King David’s. Moshe made his peace with God and his people before they crossed into the Promised Land without him. His was a good, organized, well-prepared death: King David, not so much. His imminent death was on the precipice of catastrophe, with succession intrigue, manipulation, confusion, and near disaster.

Please do not procrastinate. Have the Conversation with your family and friends. Make your peace with them so you can rest in peace. This way you will not burden your loved ones and they can focus on comforting you in your final days.