aefenglommung (aefenglommung) wrote,

Mortal thoughts

When I was a boy just entering adolescence -- say, about age 11 to 13 or so -- I thought a lot about death. It frightened me; nay, it freaked me out. I guess that's about the age when death becomes real for kids: real in the sense that you finally face the inevitability of your own death. Of course, you don't really face it. You learn to forget about it, or bargain with God over it, so that it's not really, you know . . . Death.

And then comes the busy-ness and push of being grown up. Falling in love, getting married, getting started in professional life, having kids, DOING things. Death becomes familiar, but not in connection with oneself. You almost think you can handle it, that it's not a big deal. (In my case, as a pastor, I deal with a lot of dying or grieving people. It sort of becomes another day at the office. I can go from a funeral dinner to a wedding rehearsal and hardly miss a beat.)

Now, as I stumble through middle age heading for the euphemistically named "golden years," I find myself again thinking about death a lot. I am not frightened as I was in my youth. For one thing, I believe in God and I trust in Christ. Not that I'm all caught up in previewing the real estate in heaven, which seems to comfort some people; somehow, I can't see leaving this world for another as just a bigger version of moving from Ellettsville to Cincinnati. But the idea of rest from one's labors appeals to me. Resignation is not an anti-Christian feeling. It doesn't deny hope, it just leaves all the details to God.

So, where I am these days is more in Regret Management. As in, I don't want to die without having done X, or accomplished Y, or had some time to enjoy Z. I don't have what you might call a "bucket list," but I recognize the impulse. Life is too short, in the end, to hassle with a lot of what people want you to hassle with. God calls us to peace. Here again, resignation is not an anti-Christian feeling. It doesn't keep you from striving, but it keeps you from investing all that anger and fear you used to use to motivate yourself with. And it means I just can't see putting much more energy into projects and organizations dominated by crazy or hurtful people.

Perhaps more significant to me right now than how long I will live is how many years of reasonable good health I can expect. Combined with Deanne's health situation, how many years could we expect to enjoy independence and good health together? That is the calculus of true success, not the final tricks that play out the hand after all the hearts have been taken.

So that's my goal. Not to postpone the thought of death so that whenever he comes it is "too soon." Rather, I want to live so greatly and happily that when the time comes there are no regrets that make one want to linger. In the end, nobody beats the Reaper except those who make a friend of him.

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