“Everyone knows they’re going to die,” said Morrie Schwartz, adding, “but nobody believes it. If we did, we would do things differently…[T]here’s a better approach. To know you’re going to die, and to be prepared for it at any time. That’s better. That way you can actually be more involved in your life while you’re living.”
The reality, though, is that most of us are like Mark Twain, who said that he wished he knew where he was going to die because he would never go near the place. Wake-up calls, near encounters with death, do make us stop and think, at least for a few minutes. I have known some people who were so obsessed with death that it destroyed their lives, and I have also known other people who so ignored the fact that we don’t live forever that when the sand in the hourglass of life was running low for them, they, too, were filled with panic and fear.
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven, a time to be born and a time to die…. Ecclesiastes 3:1-2
And how do you make peace with—well, let’s call it what it is—death?
Guideline #1: Make peace with God.
This is the most important thing you can do, which both removes the sting of death and makes life worth living now. How do you do this? John 3:16 tells you everything you need to know. It says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” This means accepting the gift of life eternal which brought God’s son to planet earth, believing that He became sin for you that you might be accepted in God’s heaven as His child, adopted into His family. If you are uncertain what this is all about, get in touch with us at Guidelines.
Guideline #2: Think through the legacy you will leave behind.
“How do you want to be remembered?” is a question I’ve often asked guests on my radio programs. Think about it. Will your grandchildren remember you as a stingy old man, a hypochondriac, always griping and complaining, someone who always worked and never laughed or went on vacations?
Guideline #3: Get rid of the stuff.
Unfortunately, hearses don’t have U-Haul trailers behind them. You can’t take it with you; so if you don’t send it on ahead, better dispose of the junk. Throw out the Styrofoam cups, the piles of string, the nuts and bolts in the garage, and the puzzles with missing pieces. Label the photos, decide what you can live without, and you will be amazed at the freedom you have living without the junk.
Guideline #4: Talk about it.
My parents and grandparents (including all four of my wife’s and my parents) all believed in the reality of heaven, yet they never talked about it. Why not? “I have gone to prepare a place for you,” Jesus told His disciples. It’s important. It’s real. Why not talk about it? I like how Torrey Johnson, founder of a youth movement known as Youth for Christ, put it as he knew time was running out. He commented to a friend, “Going home isn’t all that bad.”
Guideline #5: Accept the finality of death.
That means don’t delay in telling people you love them, giving gifts while you’re living so you know where they are going!” It includes making peace with your enemies. Say or write, “I’m sorry; this shouldn’t have broken our relationship,” while you can.
The Rule of St. Benedict was, “Day by day remind yourself that you are going to die.” It’s a pretty good rule to live by, today, and every day.
Resource reading: Ecclesiastes 3:1-8.