For those you leave behind

For those you leave behind

Kathy Wilson

While many of us may have taken care of end-of-life legal documents, we may not have taken time to write out two additional documents that could be helpful and meaningful to the loved ones we leave behind.

The first of these two documents is called a Statement of Faith. Many people have shared that while they may know quite a bit about the biography of their deceased family member, they know very little about the details of his or her faith journey. Writing out the story of how you came to the Christian faith and what your faith has meant to you during your life is such a gift to your loved ones. A Statement of Faith does not have to be a lengthy document; many are just one or two pages long. Writing these stories is a wonderful way to remind ourselves of how good God has been to us, in addition to serving as an encouraging witness to those we leave behind.

Another document that would be a blessing to your loved ones is a guide for planning your funeral or memorial service. Unlike other major family events, there is often not a lot of time to plan a funeral. Having some guidance is a great help to loved ones who are already dealing with all the emotions inherent in a difficult loss. In addition to writing a basic biography or obituary, adding a list of favorite scriptures, hymns, and sacred songs is quite helpful. I would suggest that you avoid adding too much detail regarding the actual memorial service. 

It would be a shame for your loved ones to decide against including something they would find very comforting and meaningful because it isn’t in your instructions. For example, my father, who was a humble man, told my mother that he didn’t want the Requiem Choir to sing at his memorial service because “that was just too much”. Even though the choir is a very important part of my mother’s life, she honored Dad’s wishes by refusing their offer to sing. However, Dr. Miller encouraged her to do what would be most comforting to her, and after some thought, she chose to accept the choir’s offer. It was such a good thing she did! Seeing all those beloved faces in the choir loft and hearing their beautiful music was one of the most meaningful parts of the service for Mom and all of us.

In addition to keeping these two documents in a safe place at home or in a safety deposit box, you may wish to have copies placed in your membership file here at the church where they are easily accessible to you and your family.

If you would like to learn more about memorial and funeral services at First Church, visit our website at If you prefer to have information mailed to you, send a message to

About the author: Kathy Wilson has been a member of First Church since joining as a confirmand in 1972 and has been on staff since 2018. One of her responsibilities is coordinating memorial services.

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