One thing is very certain: everything, everyone has an end. The race reaches the finish line. The show comes to a close when the curtain drops. A book culminates with the final chapter. A case draws a conclusion. An opening is shut with a closure. Even seasons change. Everything will come to pass. Nothing is permanent. No being is immortal. The hugot line states a fact … walang forever in this world. Only God is forever!
Life is a journey and it has a final destination. We are just passing through in this world. Our time here will also expire. Our stay here on earth is just temporary. Eventually we will have to draw our last breath.
And this is another certainty. Death will come and it will knock at our door. A Latin idiom, memento mori, reminds us, remember death.
Thus it is fitting to reflect: when death comes how do we want it to be for us? For me this is how I want death to find me: Three things:
I am prepared. I am penitent and contrite. And I am at peace with God and with all.
First. I am prepared. My final hour should find me doing good. I want to have nothing to fear or to hide. I want to be ready to face God and to receive His judgment. My death should find me prepared, that is, without any regrets and without anything amiss of anything. Being prepared means I have fulfilled what God has planned for me, and I have been faithful to Him.
We are all accountable to God. We must be constantly conscious of our obligation to God and not just take it easy. Therefore, we should not procrastinate. We must work hard for God. He must always find us working, available to Him and doing His mission for us. This demands from us a great deal of preparation. So that when our time is up and have crossed the finish line, our Lord Jesus can also say to us, "very well, good and faithful servant...come and share the joy of your master" (Matthew 25,21).
Second. I am penitent. Unlike in sports, we cannot hope to wrap things up in the "last two minutes" or the timer will beat us. We must be consistent in our game and so, steadily and continuously, we must live a good and moral life. If sometimes we fail with what we should be, we have to rise up immediately and return to God. If on several occasions we fall from His grace, we must cling to His mercy and allow Him to raise us up. Yes, God is always beside us, in front of us and behind us.
Once we realize our shortcomings, our offenses and transgressions, we must seek contrition and conversion, and resolve to have a change of heart. We don't want to displease God. We must be afraid to lose His love and miss entering His heavenly Kingdom. And that is why we must avoid words and deeds that offend God, and lead us away from Him.
To be penitent is to admit my shortcomings and my sins. To be penitent is to acknowledge God’s strength. To be penitent is to accept God as my only hope, my divine healer. To be penitent is to accept God as my only Savior. To be penitent is to beg God and and tell Him with all humility, "O God be merciful to me, a sinner" (Luke 18:13).
Lastly. I am at peace. Peace here means two things. One, it is peace in my relationship with God and with my fellow human beings. Peace here is reconciliation. We ask forgiveness and we are also ready and willing to forgive. Healing is given and received. Help is extended. Misdeeds are corrected. Misunderstandings are patched up. We are at peace. There is no ill-feeling. All is well. Peace here is to say "I am sorry." It is to beg sincerely, "please forgive me." And with the proffer of apology, pardon is granted.
Another aspect of this peace that I desire is to be free from a painful and agonizing experience, that is, for me not to meet a violent or tragic death. I wish it to be a happy and holy death, one that a Tagalog idiom describes, "parang natutulog lamang."
To wish a peaceful kind of death is hopeful of Heaven. It is being confident of receiving God's mercy and compassionate judgment. And with the words of Saint Paul we can also say, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. From now on a merited crown awaits me..." (2 Timothy 4:7).
Let me end this reflection with the story of a personal experience of a priest about death, the death of his mother. He administered the last sacrament to his mother at the last moment of her life. The priest anointed her with holy oil. At that moment of extreme unction his mother whispered to him a question he will never forget, and this he shares in his homilies in funeral Masses. His mother said, "Now that I am going to face God, what will tell Him?"
The question struck him and he had to stop his ministrations. Words failed him and he became mute. Overcome with emotions he could only take her hands and held them tight. He could feel her delicate skin and could trace the weakening blood vessels and pressed through the seemingly brittle bones of her palms. He admitted that he was caught off with that question. He did not know what to say. He realized these were the hands that held him when she was an infant, that raised him when he fell, that dressed and bound up his wounds when got injured. It was her hands that carried his school bag. Her strong hands carried him to bed when he fell asleep on the sofa. These were the hands that he kissed for her blessing.
Realizing all this, he softly whispered in her ear, "Nanay, you can tell Jesus how much you loved us. Speak to Jesus and inform Him how much you loved us. Tell God how you lived your life for us." His mother smiled quietly, and in a few moments, and her face aglow with peace, she passed from this world and return to God.
When death comes, how will I meet him? I must be prepared. I should be penitent. And with peace! So that like my Nanay I will be able to tell God, “I have loved much. I have given my life for others.|”