Mention death and watch the reactions – fear, uneasiness, discomfort, even shock. Acknowledging that death is inevitable is the last unmentionable, it seems. American Baby Boomers (yes, my generation) are living longer due to medical intervention. The percentage of Americans over the age of 75 has quadrupled over the last century. This creates a false expectation of immortality makes the arrival of death, even to those who are far advanced in years, an intrusion, a surprise.
“Dying well” is seldom talked about, as if even the thought that life on the earth must end may hasten the day of our demise. One researcher discovered that nearly a third of adults who have reached the age of 60 have not considered a plan for medical treatment in the event of terminal illness. An even larger percentage have not prepared a will.
Wishing to die is basically unhealthy, we know that! But, ignoring death is folly, too. The Psalmist prayed, “Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom.” Without an awareness of the march of time to an ending point of this earthly life, we will likely waste too many days and too much of our resources on things that lack real value. We will leave disputes unsettled, love unspoken, and sacrifice deferred.
There was a time when thoughtful people kept a skull as a memento mori (Latin for “Remember death”) at their desk. Morbid? No. They were to be a reminder for the living that they should live with an awareness of their mortality so that they would arrive at that moment prepared. What a contrast to our way of life. We sanitize death and worship youth. The dying are removed (in many cases) from our homes, placed in the care of medical professionals. We move quickly through rituals of death and grieving to resume ‘life.’
Christians live with hope in the face of death. St. Paul insists that the Resurrection of Christ is the evidence that the grave is not the end of existence. Jesus said that He is the Resurrection and the Life for those who trust Him. So, friend, are you ready to die? No as in “I want to die today,” but as in “I have loved, I have forgiven, I have settled debts, I have lived to create a legacy.”
The word from the Word is lengthy, but encouraging, at least for me. (smile) Read the inspired text with a prayer that the Spirit will set hope in your heart making it possible for you to grapple with that moment that will certainly arrive.
“Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.
Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come. Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. We live by faith, not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5:1-7, NIV)
What do you need to do today to prepare?
Tempted and tried we’re oft made to wonder
Why it should be thus all the day long
While there are others living about us
Never molested tho in the wrong
Farther along we’ll know all about it
Farther along we’ll understand why
Cheer up my brother live in the sunshine
We’ll understand it all by and by
When death has come and taken our loved ones
It leaves our home so lonely and drear
Then do we wonder why others prosper
Living so wicked year after year
Faithful till death said our loving Master
A few more days to labor and wait
Toils of the road will then seem as nothing
As we sweep thru the beautiful gate
When we see Jesus coming in glory
When He comes from His home in the sky
Then we shall meet Him in that bright mansion
We’ll understand it all by and by
Jesse Randal Baxter Jr. | W. B. Stevens © 1937 Bridge Building Music, Inc. (Admin. by Brentwood-Benson Music Publishing, Inc.)
CCLI License # 810055