I never understood mother-in-law jokes. Mine was the best. My mother-in-law died suddenly this past summer. I miss her every day. It wasn't totally unexpected. She had lived with a chronic health condition for many years and had exceeded every doctor's prediction of life expectancy by more than a decade. But none of us thought it would be on that day in early June. What made it just a little bit easier was that she and my father-in-law had done good end-of-life planning. At 79 and 93, they recognized that the end of their lives was coming sooner rather than later, and they took time to prepare for it. From a living trust to medical directives to funeral planning, they had it all in place. And in the midst of our shock and grief, all of us in the family were very grateful.

In my work as a hospice chaplain, I have become keenly aware of how often people struggle with communication and preparation for life's end. I have also seen what a gift it can be to patients, families, friends, and physicians when people's wishes are expressed, known, and honored. Later this month, Butte-Silver Bow Public Library and Frontier Home Health & Hospice are sponsoring two showings of a powerful film called "Consider the Conversation." The film's goal is to jump-start these kinds of discussions between spouses, doctor and patient, minister and parishioner, parent and child. The first showing will be Tuesday, Nov. 28, at 5:30 p.m. with a repeat showing on Thursday, Nov. 30, at 1:30 p.m. Both showings will be at the main Uptown library, 226 W. Broadway St., with discussion to follow.

I highly recommend this excellent documentary that carefully and compassionately examines end-of-life issues from multiple perspectives. The film does not seek to hand down any answers. Rather, it provides something far more important — the questions all of us need to contemplate and answer for ourselves. November is a time when people often focus on what they are thankful for. It is also National Hospice Month. Come to one of the film screenings or find other ways to begin "the conversation." I believe you, and those closest to you, will be grateful you did.

Pastor Sandy Van Zyl serves United Congregational Church in Butte and is chaplain for Frontier Home Health & Hospice.

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