There are a lot of things that stick out in my mind when I think back to the funeral service I attended less than two years ago. There was the terrible injustice of being there in the first place – no 29 year-old should have to leave this earth. There is so much left to accomplish. The pastor tried his best to give all of us meaningful, comforting words, but it was obvious that even he was at a loss. One thing he did say, which has stuck with me, was, “even in life we are in death.” I couldn’t grasp what that statement meant, and his explanation didn’t satisfy me at the time. To be fair, nothing would have.
And yet. I’ve been saying that phrase over and over in my mind for the past several days. My best friend Kate is helping her mom through a devastating battle with advanced-stage cancer. What has her awestruck is her mom’s relentless grace. In the face of an endless string of appointments, treatments, pain and suffering, Kate says her mom is, more or less, at peace. She seems prepared for whatever lies in store for her. What a beautiful blessing. Don’t we all hope that one day, when faced with death, we’ll be prepared? But how do we get there?
I don’t believe you’re prepared for death unless you lived your life the way you wanted to. That you upheld your standards, pursued your dreams, treated those around you with kindness, gave those you loved all of your heart. My high school cross country coach, before every race, instructed us to cross the finish line with nothing left in the tank. If you did that, no matter what place you came in, you could be proud that you gave it your all. I think these instructions are appropriate beyond the world of racing flats and tiny shorts. No matter when death calls for me, I want to feel like I’m leaving on an empty tank.