Why This Author Decided to Explore the One Topic That Many of Us are Afraid to Talk About
By Vernon Williams
The most difficult thing to deal with in life is death. Unfortunately, we all experience the loss of loved ones and ultimately the loss of our own lives. Because death is inevitable, it is easier for some of us to ignore the painful reality that is to come. But that painful reality can be made worse if we don’t make the necessary arrangements to send our loved one’s home in the way they prefer, and also take care of the people they wish to provide for after transitioning.
Minister Cheryl Hall McElroy knows all too well that death doesn’t wait for anyone because she has had to live through the passing of many close to her, including two husbands. Instead of ignoring the tough conversations and decisions about life after loss, Cheryl, with the help of friends who supported her, and her experiences watching people around her, was able to take care of the necessary arrangements to continue on as best as possible.
After realizing how difficult all of these necessary preparations were in her life, and in the life of those around her, Cheryl decided to write It’s Preparation Time. Her book is dedicated to helping people who are experiencing loss by giving them information they need to know, in order to make the best decisions during this difficult time. She provides specific forms for decision makers to ease the emotionally challenging process for families.
Recently, I had a chance to interview Minister Cheryl Hall McElroy.
Vernon E. Williams: Writing a book like It’s Preparation Time doesn’t seem like an undertaking that comes out of the blue. What lead you to feel it was necessary to create a book specifically designed to help people dealing with something as difficult as the death of loved ones?
Cheryl Hall McElroy: I felt this book was necessary because not only did I lose two spouses, but one thing that helped me handle things well was having a great support system. As a hospital chaplain and a minister, I saw all too often, people who did not have life insurance, a will, or money saved in case of a serious illness or death. I’ve witnessed many arguments, separations/divisions, anger, hurt, tears, because one person wanted things their way and others wanted it their way. A lot of times if this were a spouse that was deathly ill or had passed, the surviving spouse was so distraught they could not make decisions, so the children or another family member did, which brought about those conflicts.
Vernon: What were some of the things that have helped you during your times of loss?
Cheryl: Prayer, my faith in God, worship music, my children, family and friends. After the loss of my first spouse, I felt I did things well because of my support system. Therefore, when my second spouse passed, I had a better understanding of what was needed even though each death of a loved one is different.
This is why I know I can help others. Sometimes people may feel, “you have no idea what it feels like to lose a husband, you’re too young…” Then when I share my experiences with them, they let their guard down and they open up more. Because of what I have experienced, I am known as trustworthy, a woman of integrity, and a person that families can trust.
Vernon: In It’s Preparation Time, you even provide sample forms and templates to help those grieving the loss of a loved one make necessary decisions. That’s a very interesting idea. Where did that come from?
Cheryl: Being a pastor’s wife and a wedding planner, I used a program template to create church and wedding programs. So when I hear that families, friends, customers, and parishioners have a loved one in some stage of transition and know that they have little experience with loss or could not afford the funeral, I offer my services to create a program for the memorial service, assist in writing the obituary and even assist with the funeral.
Having said that, I created the forms asking questions that would provide me the pertinent information needed to complete their funeral or memorial program which helped them by giving them a form to complete at their leisure, and not worry about answering questions face to face that they may not be emotionally ready to answer. Then I thought, whether or not people have a will or insurance, it would make it so much easier to make arrangements if they had something in writing from their non-coherent or deceased loved one that expressed their wishes should something happen to them. I gave these forms out free to family members before I wrote the book. But I knew I would include them in my book because I saw first, hand it worked perfectly.
Vernon: For you, what was the most difficult aspect of writing It’s Preparation Time? Also, how did it feel when you finally completed the book?
Cheryl: The most difficult aspects where getting started, remaining consistent, stopping then continuing. But when I finally finished I felt accomplished, surprised, relieved, happy, grateful, thankful, and unbelief—I did it!
Vernon: Now Cheryl, you have a host of wide-ranging experiences from being an ordained minister and hospital chaplain, to working as a cosmetologist, a baker and a wedding planner, not to mention, a legal secretary and court reporter, how do you think the many different hats you’ve worn have helped you in your current life?
Cheryl: Being an ordained minister and hospital chaplain, I learned to encourage, pray, offer comfort and love the individuals or families from the biblical standpoint. As a cosmetologist I’ve trained so I can volunteer to do the hair, makeup and nails of a deceased person.
My experience as a baker helps when I want to bake/prepare something to take to a family like my yeast dinner rolls, lemon lime pound cake, cinnamon rolls, etc. In my role as a wedding coordinator, I bake wedding cakes, sing, cater receptions, create the programs and coordinate the ceremonies, which has helped me plan homegoing services.
As a legal secretary and later a court reporter I learned to be a better writer and now I can make sure to share with my readers the importance of seeking legal counsel from professional estate planning attorney and seek advice from licensed insurance agents.
Vernon: Singing is another passion of yours. In fact, you were in a group where you got to be a background singer for Betty Wright as well as the Temptations. Tell us more about that?
Cheryl: I have been singing all my life. In the church choir, in plays, and winning talents shows. At 15, I joined my first singing group, the Soul Perfections and the Perfectionettes. We were good! We traveled many places in Indiana and out of state. We were blessed to sing background for Betty Wright and we opened for David Ruffin in Saginaw, Michigan as well as many other singers.
I was in 2 other singing groups. One called the Dondells and the other, the Evaluations. We had the honor of singing background for the Temptations. After that, I gave my life to Christ and joined the choir in my church then a Gospel singing group called Ordinary People, led by the late and wonderful Betty Hayes. And a group called One Accord, led by the awesome Cynthia Bates.
I also recorded a few songs in my own rendition, “The Lord’s Prayer” and “To God Be The Glory”. For two years I sang on a program with Serenade For Life, a group of doctors, nurses, and people in medical field perform each year to raise money for cancer. I love singing. I have so much fun!
Vernon: What’s next for Minister Cheryl Hall McElroy? Is there anything on the horizon for you and how can we keep up with you going forward?
Cheryl: I desire to travel and encourage people to get their stuff in order for it is truly Preparation Time. Tomorrow is not promised. I desire to speak to individuals, small and large groups at conferences, book fairs, churches, retreats, hospitals, funeral home conferences, nursing staffs, attorneys, insurances and more. I will go where God leads me in and out of state. I have started working on 2 more books! And I am looking to plan my own Conference in 2020 and write a play. I will always publish what I am doing on social media, specifically Facebook and Instagram under Cheryl Hall McElroy. I will keep everyone abreast.
More About the Author Minister Cheryl Hall McElroy
Cheryl A. Hall McElroy is a child of God. Born and raised in Indianapolis, IN, she has been married to her current husband, Raleigh, Sr. 20 years. An ordained minister, Cheryl Hall McElroy has lived a bountiful life full of various personal and professional experiences ranging from being a legal secretary and court reporter to a licensed cosmetologist for 38 years and a licensed hospital chaplain for 17 years. The proud mother and grandmother is grateful to God for calling her into the office of Chaplaincy or Hospital Ministry. A servant-leader, she desires to serve God’s children in whatever capacity she can. She loves people right where they are and loves to encourage and help people in any way she can. It’s Preparation Time is her first book.