Waiting ‘Expectantly’ [v159]

MAY 2012

Waiting ‘Expectantly’

Waiting is what we all spend so much of our lives doing—sometimes with the expectation that something ‘good’ will come out of the ‘messes’ we find ourselves in.

We wait for the economy to ‘turn around’. We wait for a return to good health. We wait for a child to return home, or a relationship to be ‘repaired’. Sometimes we are simply ‘waiting’ to die—and that’s kind of the case with my dad—he was just ‘put into’ a Hospice program last week.

“Hospice” is a ‘scary’ word—at least it was for me until I updated my preconceived notions about it.

I was under the impression that it meant ‘just weeks’ to live, and that you were ‘giving up’—that there was no hope—but this is not the case anymore. If one gets better or the cancer goes into remission, one can be taken out of the Hospice program, and go back into active cancer treatment. Hospice brings the hope of a ‘quality’ life—making the best of each day during the last stages of an advanced illness. However, most of the time, Hospice care lasts about 6 months or less—if the illness runs its usual course.

On the ‘upside’, Hospice care provides humane and compassionate care for people in the last phases of an incurable disease, so that they may live as fully, comfortably, and as pain-free as possible. Hospice affirms life—it neither hastens nor postpones death. Hospice care treats the person rather than the disease, and it focuses on quality rather than length of life. Hospice care tries to manage symptoms so that a person’s last days may be spent with dignity and quality—surrounded by their loved ones. Hospice care is family-centered, and it includes the patient and the family in making final decisions.

So, what do people mean when they say they want to “die well”? Well, some probably simply mean that they want to live a long, ‘full’ life. More often, however, they probably mean that they want to die without any unfinished business—that their life was in order, relationships with family and friends were all solid, and any forgiveness that needed to happen had been taken care of.

I’m thinking all these can be summarized as proper ‘acceptance’ and ‘preparation’.

Many people claim that they don’t fear death, but when questioned further, they are quick to add:
“. . . but I don’t like to think of the sorrow it will cause my family or children.”
“. . . but I’m not ready for it to happen for a long while yet.”
“. . . but I want to go quickly.”
“. . . but I don’t want to be laid out in a funeral parlor.”

As reasonable as they sound, these statements imply a fear of sorts that the person has not yet fully ‘accepted’ the eventuality of their death yet.

Looking squarely at any of our fears about death, and being able to talk about them, can supply us with meaningful information about what holds us back from the full experience of a ‘good’ life.

If you fear death because you fear the unknown, chances are this is the way you approach life—with fear, avoiding change, minimizing risk, keeping yourself secure in known routines.

To face death consciously, you must face life consciously—embracing your fears, kissing your ‘monsters’.

Most people fear one or more of the following associated with their ‘last days’:

– The humiliation of giving up control
– The loss of bodily functions
– The separation from family and friends
– The pain
– The sorrow and hardship to family and friends
– The surprise, not knowing the time or place
– The sense of incompleteness, that you didn’t do all
you intended to do
– The sense of meaninglessness, that you never found out your
purpose in being
– The unendingness of eternity
– The experience of nothingness
– The unknown that follows

Some psychologists suggest that one look back over the fears of death that one has identified, and ask oneself: How do these fears reflect the ways I live, or fail to live, my life right now? What do fears of death tell me about my real fears of life?

After considering your list, have a ‘dialogue’ with yourself about each fear in turn, and this process will help you in accepting the inevitable.
In 1973, Ernest Becker wrote a Pulitzer Prize winning book called “The Denial of Death.” The main thesis of this book is that the fear of death haunts the human like nothing else—it is a “mainspring of human activity”—an activity designed largely to avoid the fatality of death, to overcome it by denying in some way that it is the final destiny for man [New York: Free Press, 1973, page xvii].

Becker stated that the fear of death produces a pervasive, lifelong bondage—even when we don’t realize it, fear is haunting our choices, making us cautious, wary, restrained, confined, narrow, tight, robbing us of adventure, dreams, and the cause of love in the world. Without our even knowing it, fear of death is a slave master binding us with invisible ropes, confining us to small, safe, innocuous, self-centered ways of life. Sadly, Becker had no solution for this bondage (though I will suggest one a bit later).

Even though there may not be any ‘universal’ answers to this ‘bondage’, since tomorrow is not guaranteed, we all still need to ‘prepare’ for our eventual passing.

In the 15th century, after England’s “Black Death” (Bubonic Plague), people were struggling to have a ‘good death’. In response to this, the “Ars Moriendi,” or “art of dying” was published. It was a ‘package’ of Christian literature that provided practical guidance about well-established Christian traditions, beliefs, and practices concerning death, dying, and the afterlife—for the dying and those attending to them. These manuals informed the dying about what to expect, and prescribed prayers, actions, and attitudes that would lead to a “good death.”

It included a brief contemplation of death itself, suggesting that death was not necessarily a bad thing, or even something to be feared. It also listed the temptations which faced the dying, and how to avoid them, along with providing instructions for appropriate behavior among friends and family of the dying. The book also had a section of questions to ask people on their deathbeds—designed to prompt further reflection.

For medieval Christians, death was a very important event, and they wanted to make sure that they had “good deaths”—ensuring a speedy ‘trip’ to Heaven. The Ars Mordiendi provided a framework to follow, offering suggestions, hope, and contemplation to people struggling with the fear of the unknown. The fragility of life under these conditions coincided with a theological shift that focused on individual judgment immediately after death. One’s own death and judgment thus became urgent issues that required preparation.

So, how does one ‘prepare’ for a “good death”? Well, primarily by living a “good life,” and especially paying attention to relationships. It means talking about everything that ultimately counts, and letting go of all that ultimately does not matter.

Then, when a person enters the final stage of the dying process, two different dynamics are at work which are closely interrelated and interdependent. On the physical plane, the body begins the final process of shutting down, which will end when all the physical systems cease to function. Usually this is an orderly and undramatic progressive series of physical changes which are not medical emergencies requiring invasive interventions. These physical changes are a normal, natural way in which the body prepares itself to stop, and the most appropriate kinds of responses are comfort enhancing measures.

The other dynamic of the dying process at work is on the emotional/spiritual aspect, and is a different kind of process. The dying person begins the final process of ‘release’ from the body, its immediate environment, and all attachments. This release also tends to have ‘priorities’, which may include the resolution of whatever is unfinished of a practical nature and reception of ‘permission’ to “let go” from family members—usually after a birthday, a visit from an ‘estranged’ family member, or another important event passes.

But the most important thing I mean when I say about someone “dying well” is that the person is ready to ‘meet’ God.

In the Bible, there is the story of how Joseph lived a ‘good’ life—even after being ‘sold’ into slavery, and being unfairly imprisoned. It tells about how a providential God watches over His ‘children’ and rewards those who are faithful to Him.

So, I’m thinking that since Jesus went through this ‘perfectly’, He should be our ‘model’ for this ‘transition’ in our life.

First, He warned us to “Be ready, for you know not the day or the hour” [Matthew 25:13]. I’m thinking He is trying to get all of us to be continually preparing for this eventuality.

On the other hand, the Bible also states that, “Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” Jesus promises He can be your “shepherd,” tenderly caring for you and becoming “the real source of your peace on the threshold of death” [John 10].

So, when God ‘calls your name’ will it be said by people that you “died well”? I can think of four things to focus on to make it happen:

– Trust in God, not in circumstances
– Keep short accounts with God and people
– Make sure you have no unfinished business
– Be sure you’re ready for the journey to the ‘Promised Land’ (Heaven)

Death is the great ‘leveler’—no matter your ‘status’ or financial situation. Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die” [John 11:25–26].

Even more important is the way Jesus says it in John 5:24: “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.” This says that “believers” in Jesus have already ‘passed’ from “death” to life—they already have ETERNAL LIFE. They will not ‘see’ nor ‘taste’ death—as we term it.

The Apostle Paul also emphasized this in his letter to the Corinthians: “For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed” [1 Corinthians 15:52]. When our physical bodies die, our spiritual ‘bodies’ don’t.

So, “death” does not have to be your ‘end’, but can be the beginning of something more precious than this earthly life!

I can’t say I understand the why’s and how’s of death, but I can say that we all can have this wonderful promise from God—and that we can WAIT EXPECTANTLY for it!

Death is either going to be your greatest ‘promotion’, or it’s going to be your greatest ‘loss’—it’s up to you!

Finally, if you are not in your “last days,” are there are ways you help someone else when they are in their “last days”?

Well, I’m thinking that you can be available, be of service (being very patient and compassionate), and faithfully accomplish their last wishes. I am doing my very best to do these things for my dad!

[Excerpts from: Christianity Today; Rev. Larry Benfield; Elizabeth Lev; Rob Moll; Barry Hidey; Charles Rush; John Perry; Michael P. Andrus]

[P.S.: If you would like to investigate further about what the Bible has to say about “life’s most important decision,” visit the following link:


Jeremy Taylor’s famous “The Rule and Exercises of Holy Dying” [1651]:

Martin Luther’s “Sermon on Preparing to Die”






LIFE’S DEEP THOUGHTS (v159) for MAY 2012 If you have a ‘neat’ story or some thoughts about an issue or current event that you would like me to try to respond to, I would be glad to give it a try…so, send them to me at: mbesh@comcast.net

Martin Luther wrote some very practical material. This might be a good one to read while listening to Henry Paulson and other government officials try to explain all the bailouts that will ruin us while watching the stock market struggle. Luther actually makes 20 distinct points, but only the first three matter, because 4-20 really expands on three.

Unlike a lot of his material where he begins with the Gospel, then moves to every day life and relationships, in this advice he reverses the order. He first suggests you get all your worldly affairs in order so that in the event of your death, “there won’t be occasion for squabbles, quarrels or other misunderstanding” among the survivors. “Second, we must cheerfully and sincerely forgive, for God’s sake, all men who have offended us” and seek the forgiveness of others we have offended. Then the third thing is “we must turn our eyes to God, to whom the path of death leads and directs us.” Here he makes the interesting comparison between the passage “from the small abode of the mother’s womb into this immense heaven and earth, that is, into this world.” So when we depart this life, which seemed so big after the womb, we pass through another narrow gate into a large mansion and joy will follow.

Points four through twenty expand on grace and the believers relationship with Christ, particularly in the sacraments.

Martin Luther’s Basic Theological Writings, ed. by Timothy F. Lull, (Fortress, 1989), Ch. 28, p. 638

[Norma, “Collecting My Thoughts” blog]

Realizing that he would soon be gone from this world one day, Moody said to a friend, “Someday you will read in the papers that D.L. Moody of Northfield is dead. Don’t you believe a word of it. “At that moment I shall be more alive than I am now. I shall have gone higher, that is all–out of this old clay tenement into a house that is immortal, a body that sin cannot touch, that sin cannot taint, a body fashioned like His glorious body. I was born in the flesh in 1837; I was born of the Spirit in 1856. That which is born of the flesh may die; that which is born of the Spirit will live forever.”
[D.L. Moody]

So live that when death comes the mourners will outnumber the cheering section.
[Author unknown]

He whose head is in Heaven need not fear to put his feet into the grave.
[Author unknown]

He wrote in advance the epitaph to be on his gravestone: “The body of Benjamin Franklin, Printer, like the cover of an old book, its contents torn out and stripped of its lettering and gilding, lies here…Yet the Work itself shall not be lost; for it will, as he believed, appear once more in a new and more beautiful edition, corrected and amended by the Author.”
[Benjamin Franklin]

My happiest moment will be when God puts His hand on my heart & stops it beating.
[Author unknown]

Death is the funeral of all our sorrows.
[Author unknown]

When you were born, you cried and the world rejoiced. Live you life in a manner so that when you die the world cries and you rejoice.
[Native American Proverb]

Death for the Christian is an honourable discharge from the battles of life.
[Author unknown]

Death is not extinguishing the light; it is putting out the lamp because the dawn has come.
[Author unknown]

There is nothing more certain than death, nothing more uncertain than the time of dying. I will therefore be prepared at all times for that which may come at any time.
[Author unknown]

It ought to be the business of every day to prepare for our last day.
[Author unknown]

Death is but a passage out of a prison into a palace.
[Author unknown]

The belief that we shall never die is the foundation of our dying well.
[Author unknown]

For there is no death. No. Not for the Christian!
There is only an honourable discharge from the battles of life,
A promotion to Heavenly officership,
That glorious moment to step forward

And hear the Great Commander-in-Chief say,
“Well done, good and faithful soldier!
Come, enter into your Eternal reward”!
There is no death. Not for the Christian.

Only the soul’s blessed release from dark prison.
Only a passage out of that prison into a palace.
Only a golden key that unlocks the treasures of Eternity.
No, my friend, you are not dead.

You will be alive when the mountains are gone.
–Alive when the rivers cease their running toward the sea!
You have gone higher, that is all.

Out of this old mud shack, into a house that is immortal,
A body that no enemy can attack!
“Dust thou art, to dust thou shalt return”
Was not spoken of the spirit.

You don’t really die, you just keep on living,
And go straight into the presence of the Lord!
I weep, dear friend, because I miss you.
If I were unselfish I would be rejoicing with you,
Thanking God that you are with Him!
Thanking God that your troubles are over!

No more crying, no more pain, no more sorrow,
Nothing but eternal happiness in Heaven forever!
Yes, we are so selfish about death,
We count our grief far more than your joy!

We go to the grave of a friend, saying, “A man is dead”.
But angels throng about him saying, “A man is born!”
So for now, farewell, my friend!
We shall meet again!

[Author unknown]

Dying, Christ destroyed our death.
Rising, Christ restored our life.
Christ will come again in glory.
Here and now, dear friends, we are God’s children.
What we shall be has not been revealed,
But we know when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.
Those who have this hope purify themselves as Christ is pure.

[Author unknown]

Remember now as you pass by,
As you are so once was I.
As I am now so you must be,
So prepare yourself to follow me.

[English cemetary]


“The art of living well and the art of dying well are one.”


Hope you enjoyed some of these insights—share them with your friends and colleagues—so we can have a larger ‘pool’ to receive from, and more to share with! Also, remember to include your name as the “source,” if some of this wisdom is of your doing—I would like to give credit where credit is due!

“Jesus said, “I am the Resurrection and I am the Life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, yet shall they live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die” [John 11:25–26].



Disclaimer: All the above jokes & inspirations are obtained from various sources and copyright are used when known. Other than our name and headers, we do not own the copyright to any of the materials sent to this list. We just want to spread the ministry of

God’s love and cheerfulness throughout the world.

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