There’s an old story about a man who was walking towards a town and he sees Death walking along beside him. They start to talk and Death says that he is going to kill everyone in the town. The man bargains with Death and says “Please don’t kill that many people” and Death says “Okay, I’ll only take 100.” When they get to the town, the man warns everyone there that Death was there and he was going to take 100 people. After a week a thousand people had died. The man finds Death and speaks with him, saying “You promised you would only kill a hundred people!” Death replied “I did. Fright killed the rest.”
There’s yet another story going around that says that the world is ending soon. This most current one says that they miscalculated the Mayan calendars and that it really is going to be June 3-4. This doesn’t give us a lot of time to get ready.
When my mother-in-law found out that she had a terminal diagnosis of cancer, I asked her what she wanted to do. She said she wanted to live. I pointed out that there is a difference between living and being alive. What do you want to do with the time that you have? What do you want to be remembered for? How do you want to contribute to the world? She didn’t have an answer. All she knew was that she didn’t want to die.
Our life is God’s gift to us. How we use it is our gift back to God.
“Ask not for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for thee.” – John Donne
Jesus had many parables about constantly being ready for the kingdom of heaven. This could be interpreted as death or a change in our way of understanding. Perhaps the “Kingdom of Heaven” can be seen as a death of the way things have always been, and a new life of peace and harmony.
But he also said that even he didn’t know when this would happen. So how could these predictors know, when they aren’t anywhere as connected as Jesus, who heard directly from God? They don’t. But it doesn’t matter. The idea of being ready for death is useful.
People many years ago would keep a souvenir of a loved one who had died. It was called a “memento mori” – a reminder of death. It was not only to remember the loved one, but also to remember that death is their fate too.
Our society has sanitized death to the point that we don’t even see it anymore. Our dead are taken away from us by professionals. We don’t experience death as a part of life like our ancestors did just a hundred years ago. They took care of their own dead at home. They washed them, laid them out, built a coffin, and buried them, all on their own. Now because that is done for us, we are divorced from the idea of death. We see it as an aberration, instead of as normal, which it is.
Death waits for nobody. Death is every day. There are no second chances, no do-overs when death comes. Death isn’t a punishment or a failure. Death is the natural result of life. It is best to make friends with it because it isn’t going away.
What would you do if you knew you had only a year to live?
Why aren’t you doing that now?