Three men gathered together after the funeral of a mutual friend and the conversation eventually led to their own mortality.
“What words would you like spoken during your eulogy?” Joe asked the other two.
“I would hope that people would say that I had been a faithful husband and a loving father,” said the first.
The second man replied that he would like to be remembered as a caring and dedicated doctor, and he then turned the question back to Joe. “And what words would you like to be said of you as you lie in your coffin, surrounded by your loved ones?” he enquired.
“Ah, that’s easy”, he replied without hesitation. “I hope that someone would suddenly yell, ‘Hey, I think I saw him move!’”
I believe that most of us can identify with that part of Joe that desperately clings to his earthly existence, even those of us who, in theory anyway, have an understanding that we will be going to a far better place.
But why, for those with faith, is there a fear or, at least, a tendency to avoid the issue of mortality?
It is understandable that death is a daunting concept for those who do not believe in an after-life, but from a faith perspective, shouldn’t it be a condition that we eagerly await? Shouldn’t we be comforted by the prospect of returning to the perfect and eternal embrace of our Father in Heaven, after our brief pilgrimage on earth?
Theoretically, we probably should, but in reality, are we?
Personally I am one of those who lean toward the Woody Allen theory of avoidance – “I’m not afraid of dying”, he once said, “I just don’t want to be there when it happens”.
But this is such a far cry from the examples provided to us by the saints.
On her deathbed St Therese of Lisieux said: “I am not dying; I am entering life”.
St Francis of Assisi even looked forward to his worldly demise, “Praised are you, my Lord, for our sister bodily death…”
So why do I fall so short of the benchmark that they provide? Why does the concept of death still carry, for me, an element of trepidation?
I believe St Paul holds the answer to my dilemma.
So complete was his understanding of his true spiritual home that his separation from God caused him great anguish: “My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better”, he wrote in his letter to the Philippians (1:23).
Our primary mission in life must be to seek that same love with all our hearts, minds and souls, for it is only through the conviction of God’s personal love that we will be delivered from all fear and anxiety.
The more we come to know God’s love in the depths of our being, the more passionate will be our desire to be united with Him in eternal life.