Friday, February 25, 2011

Ready Or Not

I’ve been thinking about death a lot lately. So much so that I found myself ordering a casket catalog from some Cistercian monks in Iowa. I didn’t really set out to do that. I somehow found myself on their website and I was deeply touched by the manner in which the wood is harvested and then prayerfully carved. It wasn’t until I actually received said catalog in the mail that I felt slightly jolted. The thoughts of the meaning of my order disturbed me. Was I going to die soon? What about someone I love and care about?

In the past two months I have attended a number of funerals. The first was the sudden death of my mother-in-law. Then, a colleague of my husband’s, and then several deaths of parents of friends. Even though we cannot be surprised by our elderly friends and members of our family passing away, the loss is still greatly felt. But death has also recently touched a young mom of a former student of mine and also the son of a friend at church. Those were especially hard to accept.

We all want to live a long life filled with good health and void of any suffering. But the fact of the matter is, we don’t know how or when our life on this earth will come to an end. You may think that this is a very morbid subject. But death, my friends, is certain. It’s going to happen, whether we are ready or not. The important thing is not to think about death in a negative way. It’s natural to have some fear about the unknown but I hope that we can make a decision to focus on our lives right now, bask in the beauty of the present moment, and live out whatever days we have left in a positive, fruitful, peaceful, charitable, and meaningful way.

A long time ago, when I worked in a kindergarten, each child had the honor of becoming the Student of the Week. They would, with the help of their moms and dads, fill out a paper stating their favorite things to do or eat, their favorite color, and fun information a child would love to share. But the last question was a surprising one for five year olds because it was rather profound for little minds. I don’t remember exactly how it was stated but it was something like “What do you want people to remember about you?” The children would write things like “I can win at video games”, or "I can jump really high.” In my mind I read it as, “What do you want your legacy to be?” That’s certainly not a kindergarten question, but one for us all to ponder. Sometimes I wonder if mine will be that I made a mean stuffed rigatoni with Italian sausage and meatballs.

The question is a thoughtful one, one that might take a while to sink in before you answer. But don’t wait too long. All we know for sure is that we have this moment, we have today. What tomorrow brings is only in the mind of God. So just for today, can we be more loving than yesterday? Can we give and not expect anything in return? Can we detach a little more from material things? Can we pray just a little longer?

God has a plan for your life. A plan that was formed before you were in your mother’s womb. In Jeremiah chapter 29 it says, “"For I know well the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare, not for woe! Plans to give you a future full of hope. When you call me, when you go to pray to me, I will listen to you. When you look for me, you will find me. When you seek me with all your heart, you will find me with you, says the Lord."

Ask Him to help you discover your purpose in this life and live it with everything you’ve got. Then you’ll be ready when it’s time to depart this earth and you can look forward in hope to hearing the words of Jesus, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”


  1. Elyse, once again you amaze me with your wisdom. I often ponder the way I have lived my life and how I could have been a better inspiration to others. You are doing it in your blog. You inspire me to do better and accomplish the goals I have before I move on into eternity.

    Thank you. I love you.

  2. Over the years, I have often reflected on the lives of the saints. I’ve marveled at their levels of generosity, self-sacrifice, prayer and the fact that we have awareness of his or her legacy to future generations. I have to admit, the legacies often seem far-reaching—not really something attainable in the average person’s life today.

    In 2009, I attended the Bi-Centennial celebration for my mother’s little, country church, Antioch Baptist. While I was there, I considered the families I grew up with in our little community and how each family who attended Antioch was part of this 200-year lineage. How does such a small community continue for 200 years; faithfully Christ- centered?

    My mother passed away two weeks ago at 72 years of age and now rejoices with the Saints of heaven. She lived 48 years as a nurse, 46 years as a wife and a mother for 45. She raised six children, worked full-time, and still found time to give a listening ear and healing touch to many of our neighbors for many years. She supported my father in raising us Catholic, helping him teach us Church Catechism, praying with us on a daily basis and providing for us on many levels.

    I say all this in considering your question, “What do you want your legacy to be?” I’ve never been able to see my own offerings in life as worthy and I often looked to grand and large ideas to assure myself that I will live my life worthy. My mom didn’t do that, and I finally understand the value of each life and the importance of living the gift God gave only to us and only in this time.

    For 2,000 years, we have passed down the catechism of faith, hope and love of Christ by living our lives and giving of our gifts to our family, friends and strangers around us. In giving of our lives, even unto our death, we continue proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus for generations to come, hope-fully filling the Kingdom to come.