“I pray the Lord my soul to take!”

By Catherine Mendenhall-Baugh

Life goes on forever right? That’s what we would like to believe. But the one thing every living being has in common is we can’t get out of this life alive. We all will have to die some day. I have to admit, there is a certain enjoyment I get since qualifying for all those senior discounts even though I realize, it comes with a little bit of a double edge sword. It means I’m just a little closer to those final years. We work all those years so we can look forward to retirement. But, do we really? Oftentimes I hear about someone retiring and then shortly afterwards I learn they have passed away. It made me think, am I ready to be at the end of my life? Are any of us? I love my life. I’m proud of where I am in my life now. There is a side of me that doesn’t want it to end. But, I know it can’t last forever. What should we do to prepare for the inevitable?

Benjamin Franklin was quoted as saying, “… but in this world nothing can be certain except death and taxes.” Steve Jobs, CEO and co founder of Apple and Pixar gave a speech to the graduating class of 2005 at Stanford University. He urged the class to pursue their dreams and see opportunities in life’s setbacks including death. “Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. Yet, death is the destination we all share.” Essentially, he was suggesting they make the most out of every day they have including making the most about dying.

deathOnce I befriended a woman who was 92 years old. Her twin sister had passed away the year before. She talked about her desire to join her sister yet she still had a fear of dying. She said she was not religious during her life but now realized she had been wrong. She spent her remaining days going to church and praying every day. She wanted to know if I thought it was too late for her. I asked her what specifically she was praying for. “I want to do everything I can to be able to join my sister. She was a really good person. I feel her presence a lot. I think she must be in Heaven. I want to be able to join her. I guess I’m praying for my family and everyone to be kind to one another. I’m asking God to let me be with my sister.” I responded to her by telling her I feel it’s never too late with God. I’m grateful I said that to her because she died the next day.

I read that Steve Job’s final words as he lay dying were “Wow, wow!” I find that curious. If dying is the “elephant in the room” we all hope to avoid but know we can’t, shouldn’t it be something we look forward to and embrace instead of approaching it with fear? Shouldn’t we be allowing ourselves to just “let go and let God?”

First, I need to stop here and stress I recognize it’s equally important that we appreciate living every day. I didn’t necessarily mean to say that we should be dwelling on death; I only meant that no day is guaranteed. My mother use to say that we should all be prepared to meet with God at any time. Death then is our final time to prepare for that one on one with God. Shouldn’t we be approaching that with joy? How do we get past the fear of the unknown?

I think the first thing we need to realize is that the next step after we die is not “the unknown.” We were told by Jesus and the saints and the prophets and Paul what we can expect when we die. Every person who embraces Jesus and recognizes the need to be sorry for the sins they committed against Him will be with Him in heaven.

In order to know God when we see Him, doesn’t it make sense that we should get to know Him while we are here. What better way to do this than praying every day.

So what lessons do we need to do in order to prepare for this “destination we all share.” Lesson 1 – tell everyone who is important to you what they mean to you. Tell them you love them.

For me, I would begin by expressing to my husband Jack that his life with me was my most important gift and I thank him for his daily expressions of love. I would want my children to know how much I love them. I likely don’t say it enough to them. I would stress to Chrissie and Jacky from the moment they entered my world they entered my heart and that is where they will remain. I would tell Laura; from the instant they placed her in my arms I was filled with so much love that she rocked my soul to the core and she continues to fill my heart with gratitude to God for the gift of her. My husband and children are gifts forever in my soul. Next, I think I would want my grandchildren to know that they are a source of pride and love combined because their innocence and joy is a constant lesson to me. I would want my sisters and brother to know their love and friendship was more than just something to have, it contributed to my being able to handle the difficulties life threw at me. My mother was right when she said “I may not have given you much but I gave you each other.” I also think I would want my friends to know how much they mean to me even though we don’t always stress how important friends are in our lives. So, I would say thank you to Cecelia, Joanne, Denise, Diane, well, you all know who you are. Mostly, I would want to thank God for blessing me with life and all its challenges and gifts and everyone who became an intregal part of it.

Lesson 2 – If you are telling everyone what they mean to you, then you should tell God what He means to you! Yes, I’m back to stressing prayer every day.

Lesson 3: It’s important to have a will and express your end of life wishes in writing.

I think it’s pretty amazing that I’ve had a few friends whose end of life planning included planning their own funerals. I tell everyone I would want Josh Groban and Celine Dion to sing at my funeral, but maybe I should be a little more realistic about it. I do like the idea though of planning your own funeral. After all, it’s a celebration of your life; why not express what it all meant to you.

Mitch Albom from The five people you meet in Heaven: “Time is not what you think.” He sat down next to Eddie. “Dying! Not the end of everything We think it is but what happens on earth is only the beginning.”

I think Jesus said it best in His own prayer what our end of life wishes should include: “Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who have trespassed against us. Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen”

rsz_1cathyCatherine Mendenhall-Baugh (Cathy) completed her education at the University of Nebraska majoring in Special Education and minoring in English Literature and now works in the insurance industry. A mother and a grandmother, Cathy grew up in a large Catholic family and has spent the last 30 years as a caregiver for her husband, Jack. A writer for Tuscany Press, she is also working on several longer writing projects.
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