Preparing to Die in 5 Easy Steps

Last week, I wrote about my reasons for wanting to prepare for death in a way that honors life, because death is an essential part of life as we know it.  This week, I present my personal preparation in five easy steps.  (I’m being a bit facetious with the word “easy”, needless to say.)

Things to Do before Dying

1.) Be Reconciled.

To some, this may mean a paying off of debts.  But, to whom do we owe more than to the One who has given us everything?  All that I have and all that I am is impossible without God.  My very life is a divine gift.  Have I been grateful?  Having been created in love, have I been as loving as I was created to be?  Do I take the time to be mindful of God’s presence, and of God’s presents, seeing how I deserve nothing and, yet, how God mercifully forgives and blesses?

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Prepare to Die

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.

Christina Chase, crippled, hand, SMA

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. Continue reading

Expire

Now, breathe out…

 

“His body is letting him down.”

We say this about a person who is getting old or becoming sick with an incurable disease.  Why?  Isn’t the end of life death?  Are we not all born to die?  We know that death is inevitable – so why do we treat it like it’s not?  Why do we act like our bodies are supposed to remain young and healthy forever – and then, when they begin to age or weaken through illness, why do we act as though we have been betrayed?  Betrayed by whom?

Nobody is promised endless youth and health.  Nobody is promised a life that won’t end with physical death.  Nobody.

It’s like we’re all delusional, in a way.  Some say that religious people suffer from wishful thinking – but, it seems to me that almost everyone in mainstream culture is suffering from that.  In my experience, religious people know that suffering happens.  Death is coming.  Catholics are certainly reminded of this quite often, invited every day to contemplate the suffering and death of Christ, uniting our sufferings with his, gazing upon the crucifix.  And every year, when the Lenten season begins, we (and other Christians) have ashes put on our foreheads and are told “Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”  Suffering happens.  Death will come.  Not even God Incarnate lived a human life without it.  Continue reading

Autumn Leaves

(This little verse, which I originally wrote quite a few years ago, has a perspective on autumn foliage that is different from last week’s poem…)

Autumn leaves grasp
the colors of the rising sun
to mask the fact
that they are dying,
that their lives are nearly done.

Masquerading
in blushing crimsons,
empassioned ambers,
and glowing gold,
while their life’s blood
is leaving them
dry,
they seem to flaunt as they deny
what fate will unfold.

For they are too ephemeral,
too weak to last;
Death will seize them
in the dark and chill
of winter’s blast.

Yet, for a moment,
painted complexion
in bright reflection
warms the surface
of cooling waters deep;
And nothing seems as beautiful,
glorious and bountiful,
as leaves of Autumn trying not to weep.

photo credit: Dan Chase

photo credit: Dan Chase

Reposted from The Writings of Christina Chase

© 2014 Christina Chase

Ephemeral

Sometimes, I feel so small. The world is big and I am tiny, a mote at the mercy of the rough winds around me. I can’t control what will happen next. Mere chaff in a storm, hollowed and wanting, with no power of my own to stay. I could just blow away, far from you.

Sometimes, I feel too thin. Little and brittle, the strands of life, spun glass drawn out too long. Fine filament made for a light that burns so bright… using up its thread of time, then fades away. Nothing here can stay.

I seek hands to grab, muscles press into my flesh and hold me close to beating heart, strong, so that my heart may keep beating, too. But, no creature can hold onto me for long. For, ultimately, this isn’t where I belong.

The veil between the me of here and the me of there is but a sigh, a wisp of cloud – just a little slip, a split-second unretainable, and I’m through.

© 2015 Christina Chase

Perspective

My aunt is an artist and she has cancer. It’s a rare and aggressive kind. I know neither the specific details of her treatment nor what will happen. But it’s cancer. And cancer is always scary. I was thinking about something that I didn’t want to do this week, something that I was dreading, and then I thought – but it’s nothing, nothing compared to what my aunt is going through. Everything else seems easy from the standpoint of cancer.

What is it like when you have cancer? Does your whole world go flat? What happens when you lose that “it could be worse” perspective that used to bring life into relief? Does everything in your life seem like it’s not where it’s supposed to be – what is distant is too immediately close, while what is truly near to you seems too far away?

I learned about the cancer straight from my aunt when I saw her on Christmas Day. I didn’t know what to say. She seemed her usual self, even though she had only just found out. Later, she began talking about a book that she had read, called Being Mortal, and about how we are so afraid of dying that we do the whole thing wrong. And I was impressed that she could talk about such serious things calmly and deeply while facing, perhaps, her own impending death. I saw the truth in her eyes as she said to me that she believed that God was giving her grace and that she was at peace.

So many questions have I… Would I be so peaceful if I had cancer? Although I am curious about what it’s like to have cancer, this is one subject about which I never want to satisfy my curiosity. But… Will I be so peaceful when my end nears from whatever cause? For, of course, we all will die, some time, of some thing, some how. Is anyone ever really ready to accept death – or… even worse, I think, sometimes… to face the process of dying?

Like most of my father’s family, my aunt is Christian, but not Catholic. A couple of days before Christmas, she had asked my father on the telephone why I call myself a Catholic Writer and not a Christian Writer. If she had asked me, I would’ve said that Christian and Catholic are the same, but that, because I understand the importance of words, I did debate between the two. I might have told her that the main reason I chose “Catholic Writer” was in order to give a heads up to those Christians who don’t like Catholicism, so that they would know to expect writings about the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Assumption of Mary, the Eucharist, the Catechism, and so on in my work. When I saw her at Christmas, however, my aunt didn’t ask me that question. What she did say to me was that she has been reading my blog and that she believes in the same things that I have written about. I wasn’t surprised, although my guess is that she didn’t get to the part about the Assumption of Mary – but maybe she did. We are all Christian, after all, believing in the Mystery and power of God – believing in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and striving to live our lives in imitation of him.

I know that it is with a Christian perspective that my aunt will face her cancer, whatever may come. When she suffers, I pray that she stands at the foot of the Cross and sees the proximity of her suffering and Christ’s. And when she fears, I pray that she sees and feels the infinite nearness of God’s love, trusting the whole layout of His plan. With this Christian perspective, she will not become deflated or flattened, she will not lose herself out of proportion. The light of Christ is what brings her life into high relief, making all of her days and nights round and full, giving clear relationship to everything around her, based on who she is.

Many of my favorite pieces in this blog are the ones that I write about being human, about our true identities as human beings. We are made for the divine. We are not made merely for the fulfillment of our own self-centered and finite desires. We are not made for comfort or convenience. We are made for love, true love, the fullness of love – and the fullness of true love is the receiving and giving of God’s love. We are not alone, we are never alone, for God loves us into being, intimately and infinitely, and gives us the ability to love in return… forever. It is this relationship that puts everything else into the right place. And nothing can cause us to become unloved – nothing. And nothing can force us to become unloving, to lose ourselves, to lose our reason for being, to lose our joy – nothing. Not even cancer.

And if you are reading this, my dear artistic aunt, my prayer to God is that He will set you in the right place and help you to never lose divine perspective.

This is also my prayer for all of you, dear readers, for this new year, 2015!

© 2015 Christina Chase

Grieving the Death of a Loved One: Beauty Speaks

My friend, whose husband died last December, is going through her year of firsts. The first Christmas without Dave. The first birthday without him. The first Easter… the first wedding anniversary…. Then came the first Father’s Day without the father of her children. She was washing the dishes at the kitchen sink, thinking about him and the sadness of his not being there as she gazed out of the window. A butterfly caught her eye as it flit by then returned to rest upon some flowers outside the window pane. And she wondered, “Dave, is that you?”Tiger swallowtail white flower

She does not believe in reincarnation. She believes in one life to live and eternal joy in Heaven. But, still, the wondering arose from the depths of her emotions and tickled her mind. Then, more soberly, she began to think that, perhaps, her husband had sent her this beautiful butterfly as a way of saying hello, to let her know that he is still with her, spiritually, and to make her happy.

My friend wanted to brush aside any seriousness of beliefs as she told me this story, not sure whether or not these thoughts would be considered as some kind of blasphemy in Catholic teaching. Her husband had been a deacon, as well as an engineer, and the theological world had always seemed very clear to him, while, to her, the only thing that was clear was kindness and its divine goodness. She had always said that he was a kind man. Now, with him gone, she turns to others to answer her theological questions – like our pastor, or the kindly woman who runs our parish prayer group, or even me. …And what was I to say?

I don’t know what the soul of a person can or cannot do after the body of the person has died. As a true believing Catholic, I don’t believe in reincarnation – what I do believe in is one life to live… one life to live eternally. I also truly believe, as I told my friend, that God speaks to us through beauty. This isn’t a formulized tenet of faith to which I have subscribed, but, rather, a deep conviction that I have always personally held – though I had never articulated it in words until that moment. My spoken response to my friend’s grief, joy, and wonder came from deep within my heart and opened my own mind a little more to the Mysteries of God.

Why couldn’t God send one of His tiny, winged creatures the widow’s way to cause her soul to marvel and her heart to be comforted by an awareness of everlasting love? Divine Love is ever present – my friend received it through the living body, mind, heart, and soul of her husband when he lived and breathed with us upon the earth… and the infinite depths of that personal love cannot die. The senses and the heart are touched by beauty and the soul’s memory is stirred… the gentle wing beat of a butterfly can remind us that we are intimately and infinitely loved.

© 2014 Christina Chase

Related posts that you may also like:

The Climbing Way
 When I Die