Wrote this while two people in my life are actively dying, Mr. John Meehan, a friend and mentor, and my cousin’s husband, Larry Winger. May God grant them peace…
Well, I’m feeling better – yes! The pneumonia and bronchitis that could have killed my crippled, crumpled little body didn’t, new medication stopped my seemingly endless menstrual flow (and another new medication is on the horizon to, hopefully, shrink the huge uterine fibroids) and the usual treatment was able to put a mild Crohn’s disease flareup at ease. Phew. There is always the knowledge that I could catch another chest cold at any time, but I’m trying not to live in worry anymore.
And, of course, I still can’t walk, move my arms, hold my head upright, take care of myself, or breathe without rocking my body, but, for me, that’s just everyday, like the small stuff. Don’t sweat the small stuff.
Because of all this, I feel a little more deeply into the season of Lent, which began with the reminder “Remember you are dust, and unto dust you shall return.” Lent, as I have written before, isn’t about doom and gloom but, rather, about preparing to live eternally – yet, this is also a what makes Lent a really good time of year to prepare to die. Having recently experienced the fragile mortality of my body in an up close and personal way, I have been thinking about death more – and differently. Preparing to live eternally and preparing to die are, in reality, the same thing.
Are You Prepared to Die?
Death is part of life and, so, it should be lived. In our mainstream culture, we often think that it’s morbid, unhealthy, and just plain wrong to think about dying while we are living. Many people don’t even want to talk about death at all. It’s as though we think that, if we don’t think about it or talk about it, then it won’t come.
Ha. It’s coming, like it or not.
Death isn’t evil. If it was, then God wouldn’t have chosen to go through it. Now, of course, God Godself didn’t die – the Divine Nature of Jesus, God Incarnate, never ceased, never ceases. But, the human nature of Jesus experienced death – he died, bodily. Dead. Absolutely. Christ chose to die, we could say, in order to put to death our fear of death – for he rose from the dead to offer all of us eternal life with him in the unimaginable bliss and glory of heaven. Mystery of Mysteries…
What Would Jesus Do
It’s always good to remember that thinking about his own dying filled Jesus with dread and agony. He knew it was going to hurt. A lot. Jesus is fully human, after all, as well as fully divine. And, I believe it’s right to say that Jesus was in no way eager to leave his loved ones behind – even though he knew he was going forward to prepare a place for them eternally. Jesus knew that life is beautiful – because he lived it. He fully lives it.
Accordingly, Jesus made preparations for his own death, for the end of his earthly life. He gave the keys of his kingdom to Peter, instructing his apostles to spread the good news and the sacraments – and, in a poignant scene of love and sorrow on the Cross, Jesus told his beloved disciple, John, to look after his mother and asked his mother to hold this young disciple as her own son.
I believe that I, too, am called to prepare for my own death – for the end of my earthly life. We all are.
Not a Bucket List
Some people’s approach to this might be to put together a “bucket list” of things to do before they die. But, that’s almost like saying, “Quick, let’s do all of the fun stuff that we can before it’s too late!” That’s not preparing to die. That is, again, reacting to death with fear. They are so afraid that they will miss out on something that earthly life has to offer (and I do mean some thing) that they spend enormous time and effort (and sometimes money) to get in as much as they can in order to avoid regret.
People, indeed, believe that the best way to die is to die without regrets. (And I do hate regret.) But… Am I really going to regret not seeing the Grand Canyon when the infinite and glorious vista of Paradise stretches out before me? Am I really going to regret not eating a sumptuous seven course meal in one of the world’s finest restaurants when I am being filled to overflowing with the exquisite and inexorable richness of Divine Love, pouring over my faculties with endless savory, spicy, sweetness? I think not.
But, if I fail to love in this life, if I fail to recognize God in the person next to me, in the poor, the hungry, and the friendless, then I might not be spiritually able to receive God’s pure love in the eternal joy of the life to come. Now, that would be something to regret.
Making the List
My little list in preparation for death, therefore, has God at its center – and it is also very practical. May it help me to judge wisely the things of earth – and to love greatly the things of heaven, the eternal things in which I will live forever with Christ.
Tune in next week to see my list: Preparing for Death in 5 Easy Steps.
© 2017 Christina Chase
Photograph of me, © Dan Chase, please do not copy or reproduce without permission;
Artwork from the Church History Museum Collection on the Atonement of Jesus Christ – Gethsemane, Crucifixion, Resurrection