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Preparing for death

Every time a dying person asks me about how to prepare for death, I would be both happy and nervous because I know the task is not easy at all to carry out. It’s a very delicate one, requiring me to be clear about what death really is all about, but presenting it according to how the dying person concretely is. The last thing to happen is to scare that person. The proximate aim is to make that person feel good about death and be welcoming to it.

It should be made as clearly as possible that death is actually a happy event. If we are guided by our Christian faith, we know that when death comes, it’s like God our Father and Creator is now calling us to come home, to come to our definitive eternal home with him, from whom we came and to whom we always belong.

It means that our life here on earth, where God is training and testing us to be what he wants us to be—that is, to be his image and likeness, to be a child of his, meant to share in his very own divine life—has ended. No matter how our life on earth ends, when death comes it can only mean that in the eyes of God we are already ready for the ultimate homecoming.

Death is God’s call, not ours. Irrespective of how it comes, regardless of whether it is the most painful, cruel, irrational one, it can only mean that God sees us ready for death. Let’s remember that God is a most loving father to all of us. Anything that happens to us in this life, including the way we die, has a reason that in his mind and will is always for our own good.

As a father, he will always be merciful and compassionate to us, no matter how undeserving we seem to be according to our human standards. That’s why one of Christ’s most crucial teaching is to love even our enemies, because God loves everyone. “He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Mt 5,45)

That is why it behooves us to try our best to be guided always by our Christian faith, because outside of it we would only be left to our own devices that, no matter how excellent they are in human terms, cannot anymore cope with the prospect of death that we cannot anymore undo.

We have to make this Christian truth about death to filter down from our convictions to our feelings and even instincts. For this, we need time to process this truth slowly to such a point that we be guided by it every day, since death can come to us anytime. It can come like a thief in the night. (cfr. 1 Thes 5,2)

Part of this preparation for death is to make ourselves ready to face God who will ask us for an accounting of what we have done with what he has given us. We should try to have a daily rehearsal for this eventuality by making a daily examination of conscience every night before going to bed.

This way, we can afford to be at peace and happy whatever the situation may be in our earthly sojourn.*

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