Sisters & Brothers,
The truth however painful or scary it may be is that we're all going to die. I used to think that the reason I was scared of dying is because I wouldn't be here anymore and that I'd miss the next thing. I couldn't have been more wrong. The reason I was scared of dying was because I was worried about those I was leaving behind losing someone they knew they could always talk to that would listen, make time for them (whenever) and just be there and be present for them in their lives. While this wasn't an incorrect line of thought it still wasn't the reason I was scared of dying. I was actually so scared of dying because I never truly started living my life until a few months ago.
We say this every night during Compline (Night prayer) right before we pray to our Blessed Mother essentially asking her to tuck us in before we sleep. I am no longer afraid of death. I've come to grips with the fact that each and every morning we awake we are one day closer to that eternal life. Death is also a gift but very rarely ever viewed that way.
I could end this letter here and you'd be saying, Jeff this is pretty dark and gloomy. You wouldn't be wrong, but there's a whole other side of death that we need to talk about.
Most of us just float through day to day oblivious to the fact that the shadow of death looms behind us at all times and is slowly creeping up on us as we travel through time. What if you slowed down and every morning that you woke up you viewed as a blessing? God saw fit that you were to stay on this earth for one more day instead of calling you home. Think of it as the end of a cool summer evening during your childhood that you're playing with your friends or siblings outside and your mother calls you inside and you beg for one more half hour outside having the time of your life. What happens when your mother agrees on the 30 more minutes? You use every single one of those minutes like you've never been outside before. So why don't we do the very same thing every morning when we arise from our peaceful slumber?
It's a wonderful feeling when you wake up with a smile and thank God for one more day. I feel a deep calling each and every day to make sure that I am fully available to those around who need me. Whether that is someone I work with (or works for me), a friend, a family member, a parish member, someone in my community or even a stranger. If it's within my means I'm yours. This tends to fill my days with lots of prayer, assistance & conversations. It's truly how I believe we should all be living our lives (even if you aren't religious).
Not ready to take the plunge and shrug off the heavy quilt that is your fear of mortality? Want to take some baby steps? Here are some thoughts to start moving the needle then.
- Smile at one person today. Whether you know them or not, sometimes a smile can save a life.
- Call a loved one that you haven't spoken to in a long time. Sometimes a simple "hello" can make a world of difference in someone's day.
- Send a friend a prayer. I randomly sent a friend of mine a prayer today and it turned out he needed it.
- Be patient when driving to and from work...see my challenge to you here.
- Hold the door open for someone.
- Buy someone in need something to eat or get them a bottle of water.
- At the end of the day sit and think about what good you did and how you enriched someone's life.
At some point you'll start understanding that you aren't the only one in this world and the earth doesn't revolve around you. Everything you do affects someone else somewhere else. It might not be completely noticeable right away but I promise you that it does. Life truly is what we make of it and if we choose to squander it with material things that "make us happy" then we're really not living a truly full and graceful life. In the end you can't take any of that with you and the only thing that matters when we're facing judgement is how we lived.
To loop back around to the first quote above this letter, some of us never live at all. We get so content with going through the motions day in and day out we don't realize that time continues to tick whether we are doing something or not. One of my greatest fears when I embraced this calling to a priestly vocation at the age of 36 is that I've wasted 18 years of my life (the point I knew I was being called to be a priest) and I should have answered the call sooner. As it turns out God had his plan for me and I stopped being fearful about wasting time and started embracing this calling and roar in my heart to share joy and grace with those around me. In other words I've begun to live. I started my life at 36 and I can tell you right now that I've never truly lived until now and it feels wonderful.
So what are you scared of? What's holding you back from starting to actually live your life?