I need to start with thanks to all the families who have trusted me with all or part of the service for their loved ones. All of my samples, all of the errors I’m trying to help you avoid, all of the tears come in the context of real people and real death.

I got to run sound for Rev. Bill Lepley, Rev. Ray Harrison, and Rev. Jim Johnson during many funerals at Grabill Missionary Church and First Missionary Church in Fort Wayne. From that vantage point, and from working in the hallways before and after the service, I learned a lot about what people expect and respect.

I’ve watched Rev. Clyde Wonders lead funerals for people who had no particular connection to a church. Clyde’s model of providing care for an unofficial parish in Hillsdale County has shaped my approach to care.

I’ve worked with funeral directors from Fairhaven, D.O. McComb and Sons, Hultgren, Smith and Brown, Smith and Sons, and Eagle. They do good work helping people in difficult times.

I get to work with an amazing team of chaplains at Parkview Health. We talk about life and death all the time because we work with it all the time. Patrick and Lydia lead us, and Kent, Susie, Michael, Diana, Will, Barry, Father James, Teresa, Dan, Tim, Fred, Dianna, Rich, Johnny D, Mark, Chris, Brian, Denise, Anna, Dave, Bob, and Jana are friends and colleagues and rescuers.

I’m grateful for those who read early versions of this book, in particular: Sean Swanson, Greg Nuemayer, Tyler Callahan, Ben Bulgrien, Patrick Riecke, and Dylan Stillman.

As a hospital chaplain, I’ve had many conversations with patients and families about death, about comfort, and about the ways that people walk through grief. I am grateful for all that they have taught me.

While I was writing this book, my mother died. I’m grateful for the work and love my sisters Joy and Jill demonstrated for her during her last days (and always). I have had to think about how all these words sound to us.

Nancy and I have walked through the valley of the shadow of death several times. Our conversations and silences and life together shape everything I do, including this book.





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