Life is an astounding gift! Have you marveled at a sunset lately? Or been amazed that the sun still burns, giving us light and heat and energy? Or been wrapped in the arms of a loved one?  Or felt your spirit soar with magnificent music? Or given thanks for/to all who make our living possible, human and other? Or lost yourself in prayer with our Creator? Life is astounding!

It’s also true that every one of us will come to the end of our life on this earth. And talking about our mortality is very difficult for many. It’s not easy to contemplate our dying. Yet, having conversations with those around us about our lives and what makes them meaningful, as well as our concerns and wishes for care near the end of our earthly sojourn is another way to affirm life. In the words of Atul Gawande, MD, “Our ultimate goal…is a good life to the very end.” (in Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End.)  Reflecting on our living and making decisions about the kinds of care–health care, spiritual care, emotional care—we want as we approach the end of our life is a gift to ourselves and our loved ones. It respects the astounding gift of life we’ve been given.

Those of us in health ministry, whether faith community nurses or health ministers or clergy, are in an honored position to encourage and accompany people in having these life-affirming conversations and making these life-respecting decisions. Our respective religious denominations may have resources we can utilize. The Conversation Project has wonderful resources to help folks discern their wishes and have conversations with their family/friends and health care providers. They also provide faith-based resources for congregations. Check out

April 16 is National Healthcare Decisions Day, established to focus on the importance of this advance care planning and conversations. Learn more at

Another fabulous resource for our ministries is HMA’s annual conference, coming on October 11-14! The planning committees are hard at work to create another uplifting time of learning, fellowship, and inspiration. Plan now to join us for HMA’s 30th anniversary celebration!

Peace to all—
Rev. Karen MacDonald, M.Div.
HMA President