Padre’s Corner: A photo I hope you never see

La chapelle de St. Brendan à Stadacona

Padre’s Corner: A photo I hope you never see

By Padre Capt Mark SG Sceviour,
Fleet Chaplain

This week I went and got my media photos taken. You all know the ones I’m talking about. When my wife asked how my day was, I responded ‘Not bad, had some photos taken that I hope you never see.’ That took her by surprise. The normalcy of taking ‘funeral photos’ was not normal for her. And that’s when it struck me, our military lives are different from most Canadians or even members of my family.

It also got me thinking, have I prepared my family in case the worst does happen? Sure, I’ve signed all the right documents (mainly because the military forces me to do that once a year) but have I had a real conversation about unlimited liability? Have I had a talk about my wishes for end of life and funeral care? Have I really had the conversation about the fact that my employer is the military and that I sail on a warship?

The answer is most of us have not had those conversations. They aren’t fun. Why would we take the precious family time we have and have morbid conversations? Because if we don’t, it’s not fair to the ones we leave behind.

I’ve asked many sailors if their families know their wishes when it comes to funeral plans. The answer I get most often is ‘I’m not bothered by that stuff, they can do what they want,’ Or ‘I don’t want to burden them with a laundry list, so I’ve said nothing.’ Take it from me, a Chaplain who’s journeyed with many families when they are facing those hard difficult decisions – not knowing what you would have wanted is the worst. You have to give them something.

If you feel you can’t sit down and have a face to face conversation with your loved one(s) about end of life decisions, then write it down. Put it in the file cabinet and tell them it’s there in case the worst outcome happens. If you can sit down with your loved one(s), please do. Talk to them about some of your wishes. Talk about whether you want a cremation or a casket. A traditional funeral, a celebration of life or both.

What if you really don’t care? Still give them something. Give them some achievable tasks. Maybe you want everyone to wear Maple Leafs jerseys to your wake, or you want a confetti cannon to go off as your remains are removed from the church/funeral home? Or maybe you have a favorite beer or beverage that you want everyone to raise a cheer with. Maybe you have some ideas of the songs you’d like played as your photo slide deck plays. Let them know.I hope my wife never sees my deployment media photo. If she does, I hope she’s comforted in knowing that I would have loved seeing my friends and family all wearing red clown noses, raising a pint, and singing ‘Home for a Rest’ as loud as they can.