As many of you know, my grandmother passed away a week and a half ago. While I am still mourning her absence, I have also been thinking a lot about the timing of her memorial, only two days before Good Friday, Between the two events, I've had a lot of time to think about death and its significance.
I am a thinker, and often process my feelings by asking big, unanswerable questions. How do we live with death in mind, without becoming depressed or detached? How do we love with our whole hearts, knowing the person we love could suddenly be gone? What does it mean to be "citizens of heaven" (Philippians 3:20) but also be given an unknown number of years on this earth to love and help others?
I have heard the advice before to live your life in the way you wish to be spoken about in your eulogy. In all honesty, this sounds exhausting and overwhelming: how can you possibly predict what other people will see in your actions, and how they would choose to summarize your life? Yet it sounds wise to live with your own death in mind, using it as a sort of compass to guide your decisions.
I wonder if this is the wrong approach, though. After all, the Bible encourages us to fix our eyes, not on our own deaths, but on Christ. Colossians 3:1-4 reads:
"Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory."
Perhaps we are not meant to think overmuch about our own deaths and lives; perhaps we could not possibly carry the weight of that burden. In many ways, focusing on Christ's death and life is an easier yoke to bear (Matthew 11:28-30). His death provides assurance that death is not a final end.
"But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But each in turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him." (1 Corinthians 15:20-23)
If this is the case, and death does not need to be seen as a closed door, then the heavy weight of living the "perfect" life can be lifted. I do not need to live so that I have a good eulogy; I can live with eternity in mind, where the temporary pains of loss, sorrow, and imperfection will have no hold.
When my grandma was diagnosed with terminal cancer about five and a half years ago, she prayed for more time than the six-month estimate she was given. Not time to finish projects or perfect her legacy; she just wanted to attend more weddings, see more graduations, go to more bible studies and keep up with her friends and family.
Outside of chemotherapy and more frequent medical treatments, her life post-cancer remained consistent: she continued to be the feisty, opinionated, enthusiastic person I knew my whole life. Her life had such meaning and value to us because she wasn't focused on being admirable or having a "purpose-driven life." She was living with her eyes focused on things above, and her heart open to demonstrating love and joy.
This Easter, I hope I can begin transforming my idea of life's "meaning" and be more like my grandma. I hope to fix my eyes upon Jesus, and to consider my life as His; I hope to spend less time trying to make my life worthy, and more time being joyful that His worthiness is what counts.