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.

Garden Coaching (me) and Life Mentoring (not me)

I spent my morning in the most beautiful garden. Terraced and hosting gorgeous views, the quiet of this mountaintop garden was captivating. A high elevation, and an early hour (8 a.m.) allowed for a light sweater. To make the morning sweeter, my client was a charming lady, about 20 years older than I.

She is one of those rare women, that when you meet them, you find yourself squaring your shoulders a bit more, and holding your head higher. She epitomized grace and confidence, was kind enough to look past misplaced manners, and likely finds common ground with any individual.

We chatted as we surveyed the garden, discussing a new perennial bed here, cutting down a few trees there, pruning some shrubs in the corner, and wondering if a new design was in order for the front. Several times she mentioned a class she’d taken when she was in her 50s–my age now. When she did, I had to stop myself from grabbing her arm, and saying, “Please tell me about being 50.”

I wanted to her to tell me about the last two decades of her life. I had a billion questions for her.

Mostly, could you tell me that the next 20 years has more than just getting old in it? Is there joy or purpose over there?

She confided a few details of her life, enough for me to know it hadn’t been all ease. There was some deep pain tucked into the those two decades, and before. And though, I slowed my pace down considerably to meet her’s, and waited as she caught her breath going up steep hills, she was still there, creating her garden, wondering if the lavender should be replaced or we should replant with something else.

In case you missed it, I am in desperate need of a mentor. But few are found, and most are enjoying a retired life, and sadly, living in a retired community. They are separated from us! How I hate that. What wisdom this woman who has already traveled the next 20 years–my next 20 years–has for me.

I sometimes want to mentor the young mothers–not about parenting their children, they are doing an amazing job there–but in their marriages, I watch them, in my social and work settings, assuming their husbands are happy. (Is he? Or does he just dislike conflict?) They assume there is no limit to the demands they can put on their husbands, or that there is no demand he will not find a way to grant. Because men are so good at that–quietly going about getting the job done, while dying inside. I don’t want to criticize or judge them these young women, just instruct them. The fathers they currently raise children with, will be the husbands they grow old with. Why not be his best friend?

I so wish the woman who was ahead of me in her marriage, had stopped for a brief moment, and turned around to tell me that. What a difference it would have made. Maybe not a different outcome, but a different story. Perhaps one with more grace in it..

I so wish the woman ahead of me now, would turn around and tell me her story. What treasures could I gain?

I could use a mentor over a therapist any day The mentor has charted the path. She knows the stumbling blocks, the obstacles, the switchbacks. She knows that if you just keep going, there is life ahead, even when you think there isn’t.

I grabbed onto bits and pieces of my client’s life, as she kindly shared some stories. I did not interrupt her with my questions, but stayed with the garden talk because that was the day’s job. But oh, in a minute, I would have torn up that check, trading it for an hour of her wisdom instead of mine. Because, I have a sneaking suspicion, just an idea, that perhaps, she knows where joy lives.