From those knowingly facing death to those whose life is suddenly and unexpectedly ended we are given a glimpse of the brevity of our time on earth and the urgency to be prepared. Yet, what are we preparing for, and what awaits us thereafter? Are we preparing for the end of our life, or a transformation to something greater?
Pope Francis has noted that “If death is understood as the end of everything, it frightens, terrifies, and is transformed into a threat that shatters every dream, every prospect, which breaks every relation and interrupts every way.” Pope Francis in St. Peter’s Square, general audience on Nov. 27, 2013.
However, in our faith as Christians, we are given hope- that our present existence is as temporary scene, a blink as it were, passing into a greater eternity. It is a continuation of God’s immense love for us, a incomprehensible desire for us to be forever with him. How easy it is to be overwhelmed with the everyday details of this life or with living in or for the present moment that we fail to live in this awareness of eternity ahead.
What then does a life prepared look like?
Having sat with those imminently anticipating death, it is a surrender -of the events of the days and years leading up to that very moment to God. It is an acknowledgment that God is aware of all choices good and bad, and mercifully has embraced and forgiven them. It is a readiness to meet God, as St. Aquinas would say, not “through a glass darkly” but look forward to the day when we shall see our Creator “face to face.”
What would our last words be?
A priest friend of mine the other day gave his homiletic retelling of Fr. Mitch Pacwa’s heart attack last April. As the heart attack came on, Fr. Pacwa recounted that his thoughts and words were surprisingly not on where he might be going, but on the fact he did not want to die in the middle of Walmart. Though there is humor in this retelling, it does give each of us pause to contemplate how we leave this earth.
My aunt Bonnie, was given but a few months to live with a sudden diagnosis of Pulmonary Fibrosis, a hardening of the lungs. With this very painful condition, gradually the lung tissue becomes so thickened that oxygen cannot move and breathing becomes increasingly more difficult. As the days drew closer, and she was seemingly in between worlds, her last words remain with me. “I’m going home..I’m going home..I’m going home.” What a witness to the hope that God promises. What a gift to our family left behind. And when I think of my own final moments, it is how I wish to meet God and those who have gone before me.
Rather than dread, this instills in me such joy that I have already had the conversation with my immediate family on “if I were to go today”. For their benefit I have chosen readings, songs, and expressed my desire for them not to go overboard on the funeral expenses. This is not my home. Though while here, I fully intend on growing in love and learning all that I can to show that love to those I encounter along the way.
See You Soon,