“If you had one month to live, but could still do whatever you wanted, what would you do with the time?” That’s the question I used to kick off a discussion of “Dying Well, that We Might Live Well” at the monthly luncheon of business men and women. Our series this year keys off Tony Campolo’s idea for his book, Following Jesus without Embarrassing God. It’s a thought provoking and insightful book, but I thought his chapter entitled “How to Get Ready to Die without Pretending That It’s No Problem” was weak. The interaction of our group was much more satisfying to me.
Virtually everyone said something about connecting with close friends and family to (1) reinforce love, (2) leave a heritage of lessons learned about life, (3) pass on blessings, (4) clear up loose ends, and (5) state the reality of God’s words of comfort for the dying. These responses, of course, highlight significant relationships as a core value in having meaning and purpose in living and dying. Ira Byock touches on this aspect of dying in his book, Four Things That Matter Most in which he sets forth four key things to deal with: (1) “Please forgive me,” “I forgive you,” “Thank you,” and “I love you.”
A second theme that echoed through our group’s responses was “what’s next.” We all agreed that if we view our death as simply the loss of something precious with nothing to supplant the former state, we are doomed to despair. We need to see outside our box. Death is a crossing over to a better, higher permanent state. Years ago, I had to let go of a suit that I loved to wear. It was flat worn out. As sad as it was to say good-bye to my comfortable piece of clothing, I was excited to replace it with a new suit that was nicer than any I had ever owned. Perhaps this is what Paul had in mind when he wrote
Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, and 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 or heavenly dwelling, so that what is moral may be swallowed up by life. (2 Corinthians 5:1-4)
Simply put, we can get ready to die without pretending it’s no problem by elevating intimate relationships to a high level of priority and by getting clear about what we have to look forward to. What God has provided for us lies beyond our wildest imagination.
No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him (1 Corinthians 2:9)
The implied challenge of this discussion is apparent – Why wait until I’m dying to clarify my relationships with my loved ones and my destiny that God has prepared for me because I have place my trust in Him? Moses had it right:
Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. (Psalm 90:12)