In the last year of his life, Forrest Church offered me the same advice on three separate occasions. He told me to forgive everyone everything, and that in the end I was responsible to “die well”. Those lessons, like the whole of Forrest’s life, ministry and writing -- stuck to my soul.
Dying well --what does this really mean, and how do we do it or be it, or attempt to experience it? My answers are slim, a bit skeptical, and enormously intrigued. Every day we are living we are also dying. This is the nature of being a human being.
Being human is the will of God, and we spend a lifetime trying to be anything but human. Humans have beginnings and endings. God alone is eternal, and yet, I suspect we get glimpses of eternity before, during and after our days on this earth.
The challenge of Life is to live well knowing fully we will die, and will never know when, where, or how. Our lives are built upon a ground which quakes. Our very foundations are prone to shake. There is the occasional fissure, or even the creation of a gaping canyon.
Life rolls along. There is a flow to it, and at times it feels like tubing down a lovely lazy river on a hot summer day. But then, as we age, we begin to hit the rapids. The water goes wild, and we can hear the roaring sound of the falls which lies ahead. We feel little control at all.
We know how to make a difference. We certainly know what matters. We are not stupid or foolish, unless we choose this charade as a way of coping. It is in loving extravagantly, void of conditions, that we change the world for the better. It is in letting our mercy swarm, that we become deeper, fuller, and saner individuals.
Success is irrelevant. Greatness is momentary and mostly artificial. Dying well calls upon us to lead significant and substantial lives; lives which serve and sacrifice and suffer; lives which jump for joy and weep with sorrow; and a life spent knowing we are enough, as is the thing called a Life. Both are loaded with point and purpose.
Lent is an intensive course on how to die well, which religious folks call the Passion.
O, Lord of Lent, dying well is to possess a faith which can conquer fear. It is being sad when it all must end. It is the gut wrenching grieving of our losses. It is wondering where we will go from here. Of course, there is no place else to go, but back to Life. Dying well is an ultimate trust, a holy hunch we will all one day melt into the heart of God. Amen.
Reverend William R. Grimbol has spent the past 30+ years helping people create and develop strong spiritual connections with loved ones and God. He is also a published author, with over a dozen books to his credit.