|Speaking to Youth Group. From October, 2010|
In July, 2010 while waiting for test results, I wrote the following essay. In October 2010, I added discussion questions for each point for use in our Sunday School class. The full essay is available here: You might not have to die. Below are the shortened points and some questions.
When hiking in the Himalayas in the 90’s, I categorized the drop-offs at the edge of the trail according to the probable end result:
- They might not have to carry you (ie., you might not even get injured).
- You might not have to die (your injuries might not be fatal)
- They might not find you (self-explanatory)
This summer vacation I’ve been thinking somebody’s definitely going to have to carry me and I might, in fact, have to die.
It is heartening to discover that my philosophy about end-of-life and bad things happening to good people (assuming that includes me :-), are already fairly well thought out and intact, due to previous “bad things” happening. Here are the main conclusions I have arrived at since age 27 when the first really bad thing happened.
1. God will not allow anything to happen to me that will not further his kingdom.
That’s the only “”guarantee” I can count on and it is predicated on my being willing to be used for the good of the Kingdom of God. Knowing God loves me, cares for me, and is actively involved in my life is no guarantee of a happy life, a healthy life or life at all.
- What in your life confirms/questions this conclusion?
- What conclusions have you come to?
2. It’s Okay to die.
Between 2006 and 2008, both of my parents died. My father died of Alzheimers and my mother most probably from congestive heart failure and other issues.
Watching their ability to care for themselves and, ultimately, to interact with others, desert them over the last year or so, the end did not seem such a loss. It seemed appropriate and the time had come to say “good-bye”.
The last thing I would want to do is linger on in some half-life, unable to act and interact with Dave and Abra, family, and friends. Death is not such a fearful thing that I must avoid it by clinging to a life that is difficult for me and for those who love and care for me. I do not want years of anyone’s life to be focused on prolonging mine! I want my family to LIVE, rather than to have their lives constrained by stringing out my dying. It’s okay to die.
- Whom have you watched die?
- What makes it an “okay” time to die?
- What is a “good” death?
3. A long life and a full life are not necessarily the same thing.
I may not have a long life, but I’ve had a wonderfully full one. And yes, some of that fullness has been extremely difficult and painful. Yet, I wouldn’t trade even those experiences (and the growth gained) to be younger again.
I have not waited for some other time to do and go and experience. And now, I’m really, really glad! As Bill Hybel says in his book, Holy Discontent, “In what other life are you going to go all out?” Amen.
- What’s on your “bucket list”?
4. My life isn’t any shorter today than it was yesterday (before possible dread disease)
If I believe my life is in God’s hands, then my life – in total – hasn’t changed. My life expectancy isn’t any different today than it was a year ago. I may know more, in a few days, of what to expect and when, but I’m not sure the actual timing for Cookie, in God’s eternal plan, has changed at all. I should always be living in the light of an eternal awareness, willing to be used by God, not just when the end is in sight.
- How does your sense of eternal timing affect how you live your life on a daily basis?
- If you knew you only had six months ot live, what would you do differently?
5. My goal is to empower my loved ones to move on.
Good relationships are a lot easier to grieve, and then to be able to move forward. I want my husband, my family, and friends, to be able to grieve (yes, I hope they mourn me!), but then to walk forward without anger or hurt or guilt that keeps them from enjoying life and allowing other relationships to fulfill the needs that I filled. So, if life is shorter than I knew, I will focus on what I need to do to help those who will miss me – but who have a life left to live!
- Do you have “unfinished business”?
- What can you do about it now?
For several years, Dave and I were part of a team of four couples who shared deeply about their marriages with participating couples during Marriage Encounter weekends. The older couple on our team shared on the very difficult topic of death, thinking of their own death and it’s effect on their spouse. Oliver and Elizabeth’s talk brought tears to many an eye and modeled a way to share, even about the prospect of dying, with one’s spouse. While we shared other difficult topics, we did not present that one. While its a topic no one wants to think might actually happen (me included), no matter what the diagnosis is, the process of thinking “what if I’m going to die?” has been good.
- What do you think about your own death?