Preparing for Death and Climbing Mt. Everest


Call me morbid, but I have realized recently that death is imminent. One of my sisters made the comment that, if statistics are correct, then one of the four of us will die within the next ten years. While I hope stats are wrong, the possibility is a very real one. I don’t relish it.

And yet, I call myself a Christian.

Why bring that up? I guess I thought being a Christian meant I’d be completely prepared for death, maybe even looking forward to it since I’m a big fan of Jesus. But, if being honest is a virtue, then me being virtuous is me saying, I am so not ready for that. I’m not ready for one of my sisters to die. I’m not ready to die.

When the kids were little, I’d often pray, “Just until they’re both 18, then I can die, Lord.” Now, I want to see my granddaughters get married. My deadline for death shifts bit-by-bit each year as new loved ones come along (the grand-girls) and new memories are made. How does one let go of life when there is so much of it?

That’s the question, isn’t it? How does one let go of life?

By having faith that more life is beyond this one than is imaginable.

After Jesus is resurrected, he is talking with Peter while walking on the beach. He tells Peter that when Peter is old he will go where he does not want to go. Jesus says it to Peter as follows in John 21:18-19:

18 I’m telling you the very truth now: When you were young you dressed yourself and went wherever you wished, but when you get old you’ll have to stretch out your hands while someone else dresses you and takes you where you don’t want to go.”19 He said this to hint at the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. And then he commanded, “Follow me.”

Many believe Jesus was referring to the fact that Peter would die a death of crucifixion. (He and his wife, upside down no less.) That makes sense and I cannot fathom such a horrific death, but verse 18 is one that runs through my head lately. As I witness parents of friends experience this very thing–once young and independent, now old and dependent. They rely on children to be understanding and helpful–to dress them, feed them, drive them, and yes, even take them where they may not want to go.

Growing old gracefully is a new thought indeed. Am I up for the challenge?

Some refuse to accept growing old and so they’re out climbing Mt. Everest. Forgive me for this, but boring. Once you get to the top, you have the chore of coming down. And, while it would seem that would be easy part, it actually isn’t. Climbing down a mountain can be as challenging as climbing up one.

And, climbing down feels like the challenge now.

Yes, I still have mountains ahead with plenty of adventures and excitement left, but I also have the responsibility of preparing for death. Read that sentence again.

I have the responsibility of preparing for death.

How will I do that? By remembering, and believing in the most clear and definitive way that more life awaits me there than ever could here. And by there, I do mean heaven.

Yes, this preparation feels like climbing down a mountain to me. Like I’m being led to where I do not want to go.

But, if Scripture is correct, (and I believe it is), then I am not climbing down but going up. Stephen, the first Christian martyr looked up and saw Jesus sitting at the right hand of God, as they were stoning him.  Jesus ascended when he left this earth. Elijah went up in a fiery chariot to heaven. The tower of Babel was built up to reach the heavens. On the last day we will rise up to meet Jesus as he descends down. All of this feels so surreal and unreal as I prepare myself mentally for the death I will most certainly have.

In this journey ahead, I may feel like I am climbing down the mountain as the years click by, but I am actually climbing up, bit-by-bit, not to Mt. Everest, but to heaven. And, once I am there, I thankfully do not have the chore of coming back down.

marigold, transplanted and still blooming, cinthia milner

How to Make Your Dreams Come True

I have a dream. And for 45 years, I’ve been waiting on that dream to show up in my life.

Yesterday, I walked to my little town’s movie theater to watch The 2nd Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. I’ll admit it wasn’t as good as the first, even with Richard Gere in it, but the wedding scene made it worth the cash. The wedding scene is exuberant, joyful, full of dancing, and so much dang fun. It puts a smile on your face. It was the best part of the movie because the main character, Sonny, does it again. He figures out his dilemma, gets out of his own way, and makes a pretty great comeback.

If you’ve done that in your life, please raise your hand (or comment below).

If you’re still waiting to do that, please raise your hand (or comment below).

The movie works because each character has a dream, a yearning, but while they stall, ponder, wait, agonize, and worry (you’re thinking, you’re not getting any younger here), Sonny’s passion, youth and desire is juxtaposed against these characters who have lived long enough to lose a few dreams. They know, not all dreams come true. It’s easy to understand their hesitancy to dive back in.

Where do you go when your dreams don’t come true? What’s next?

The movie ends happily, of course, with everyone getting some traction beneath them, and moving toward their new dream. Relationships, jobs, marriage, not-marriage. Death is certain, they learn, but so is life. There is no time like the Present Time.

Of course, that’s all movie-talk, and we all can’t look like Judi Dench with her super-cute haircut, silver-grey hair and blue eyes.

But, we can all dream.

I know this guy who lives with his girlfriend. They’ve lived together 20+ years. She’s always wanted to get married. He never has. When I asked him why (because truly no two people were ever more compatible), he said he was waiting on the girl of his dreams. Oh, don’t get him wrong, he likes his live-in girlfriend, she is loads of fun, and a real nice girl, but she isn’t the one. He went on to describe the one, every man’s dream–tall, blonde, buxom, and gorgeous–and said when he found her, he’d marry her. (Okay, a little silly on his part, the eye-candy-wife, and we could easily argue that he’d already found the one in his brunette, non-buxom, short girlfriend, but that’s not the point.) My conversation with him was 20+ years ago, and I asked him, “Do you think that blonde, buxom and gorgeous girl is going to come knocking on your door while you’re living with another woman?”

I can be blunt and a bit tactless.

Listen, if we skip all the he was using the girlfriend until he found the wife conversation/judgment, and just let him talk, here’s what we might hear: Maybe, he is afraid of finding the woman of his dreams. So instead, he settles for what he doesn’t care if he loses, and hides behind their apartment door. If he was more like Sonny, he’d be the one knocking on doors until he found the one. May we all be more like Sonny.

My take-away from The 2nd Best Exotic Marigold Hotel: The dream may never present itself. You may need to go looking for it.