I’m at the point in my life where I attend more funerals than weddings. In the past few months, I’ve had several people I know die. My grandmother’s heart failed. An older friend from church died of cancer. A high school classmate, a woman I had known since fifth grade, died of cancer. A friend’s husband died. An acquaintance from high school was murdered this past week.
Aside from my grandmother and the church friend, the others were all in their early thirties, just like I am; all had young children, just like I do. Shawna was my age, as was the other friend’s husband. Ben was a year younger than I. Back when we were in high school, thirty seemed so old, so far away, so unimaginable—but now it’s real. I feel too young for this.
Brushes with my own mortality often prompt me to ponder my own future death, even to the point of planning my funeral service or wondering what my obituary will say. A bit on the morbid side, I can hear you mutter from the other side of the computer screen. When will Laura stop being so depressing?
Pondering our death is necessary, though. It shakes us out of our mundane, taken-for-granted everyday lives, and forces us to recognize that my ‘urgent priorities list’ is often light years from what I claim my true priorities are. After all, I can babble about how important my children are to me, but I still don’t write “play Monopoly” or “color with sidewalk chalk” in my daytimer.
You may have heard of a “bucket list”, where you answer the question “what do you want to have done before you die?” Travel to Paris? Write a book? Climb a mountain? What is on my list tells others a lot about me. But there’s another question that’s even more important.
Who do you want to be before you die?
If I knew I was going to die in the next year, what kind of person would I want to be in that final year? Not what would I do differently; I venture to guess that my routine might be very similar to what it is now.
But my routine would be anything but routine, for I would become more mindful, not just what I was doing, but how and why I was doing it. I would do them with a different spirit, the spirit of a person who wants to be a loving and giving person.
6:30am: awaken with expectation of what this day will bring
8:00am: talk to my fellow gym rats, even the greedy, squat machine-hogging weight lifter that I always want to conk with a dumbbell
10:00am: write with a different attitude, focusing less on my own self-promotion and more on encouraging and convicting through my words
2:30pm: hug my daughters tighter when they arrive home from school
5:00pm: fix dinner for my husband with a little more care and greet him at the door with a kiss
And throughout the day, pray with the intent to know God better, because I would know that I was counting down the days until I am with him. I can’t wait.
The contemplation of death encourages me to be different, though it may make very little discernible difference in what my daily routine is.
It encourages me
to live with my eyes wide open …
to love with every ounce of love God gives me …
to focus on the eternal, those things that will not end with my physical body’s death, but that will stretch into the place where time is no more.
This changes me inside.
So what kind of person do you want to be before you die?