“Remember your last end,” Scripture admonishes us. Yet it seems that few people do, or maybe they remember when they attend a funeral or hear of a friend’s death. For us, November, the month of the Holy Souls can be a wake-up call. We are jolted into an awareness of the transience of time as we remember and pray for those who have gone before us. “Like a drop of sea water, like a grain of sand, so are these few days among the days of eternity” (Sir 18:8).
The secular celebrations of Halloween, when young people dress up in black clothes like witches or the grim reaper, or depicting a skull and cross bones, may be an unwitting attempt to mock death so as to avoid facing the inevitable reality. When our days are overloaded with distractions we block out the thought that one day we will not be here. The fear of death is very real and many of us steer clear of facing our own mortality. No one wants to go down that road.
Yet the thought of death, my own death, can be a powerful teacher. “When we die we take nothing with us” (Ps 49:18). All things are passing. So let us walk gently through life, thoroughly loving, wholeheartedly enjoying, arms wide open to embrace but also ready to let go. Here, death is a good friend, showing us that “We have here no lasting city” (Heb 13:14). We peacefully accept the inevitability of our dying, knowing neither the day nor the hour.
Job (or Handel) got it right: “I know that my Redeemer liveth…and in my flesh I shall see God…my eyes shall behold…” (Job 19:25). Deeper than all the bruising or battering or horrific violence that may befall us is deep trust in the Son of God. Our faith tells us, strengthens us, gives us joy because we believe, heart and soul, that “The Lord is risen!”
This is the road mapped out by Christ. “Dying you destroyed our death….” we say at Mass, immediately after the consecration. Do we really believe this? The fact that He died is what is important, not that we ourselves must die. “Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead,” Paul wrote, and in a following verse, “if we have died with him we shall live with him” (2 Tim: 8; 11).
This is a liberating truth that we need to reflect on again and again: Christ has tasted death for me, my own death. Because of Him, we too will come through death; we too will live. He has gone before us and as we grow into him we lose all fear of death. “If we live,” Paul says, “we live for the Lord, and if we die we die for the Lord: so then, whether we live or die we are the Lord’s” (Rom 14: 7-8).
So yes, let us remember our last end, not with fear but with trust in Jesus who has prepared a place for us so that, “Where I am you may be also” (Jn 14). Who would not be overjoyed to be always with Him?
Sr Redempta Twomey