Death-Bed Priorities

As far as I know, no one has ever said on his death-bed that he wished he’d spent more time at the office. I think we can be reasonably sure, therefore, that we won’t be saying that, either. The bon mots attributed to the witty and the celebrated will probably be beyond most of us; so what shall we be saying — always assuming that we are allowed a death-bed in the first place, and that the gift of speech will attend us to the last?

I have been present at the deaths of several people over the years. No one I’ve known has spent their last minutes going over wrongs done to themselves, only wrongs they have done to others. The regrets they have voiced were not that they never climbed Everest or couldn’t afford a Matisse or a Maserati, but that they didn’t give time to others, or that they failed to notice another’s need. The sins of omission as well as commission seem to crowd round us in our last hours. They don’t block out the good memories or the gratitude, but they do seem to be quite troubling.

All this is quite encouraging for those who have been taught from their earliest years to pray for the grace of a good death — in other words, to die in a state of grace, repenting of sin and giving glory and thanksgiving to God for all his mercies. As we live, so we die. If our life now is Christ, just think what it will be for all eternity!

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5 thoughts on “Death-Bed Priorities”

  1. One of the greatest gifts I received fourteen years ago was a breast cancer which did not take my life, but showed me during a very dark night at the hospital that I could not think of one thing to offer Godde when I would reach heavens.
    I was harsh on myself in a way because I had and still have a beautiful family, and I probably shared in the making of it. But this great blackness, this immense void in which I found myself, showed me that even my heart was not my own, but Godde’s.
    The gift was that from then on, I said Thank You for everything in my life, forgave those who had hurt me (I’m still working on this), and apologized to those I had hurt.
    Today’s Gospel makes me wonder how I can get rid of all that I have accumulated in the course of my life. I hope I will be graced to see how this can be done.
    “To leave with nothing but what I have done for the love of Christ,” said some saint…

  2. Very true. I do however recall a long night spent with a husband who wished he had spent less time at the office and more with his dying wife.

  3. I think that perhaps we all have regrets. But the time to put things right is now, when in health, not at the last moment before death.

    In deaths in my family over the past few years, all of those who died had been very ill and in a coma for days before their death, so their death bed scenes were ones of us saying “what if” and praying that they’d be released from their suffering. That’s not wishing someone dead, but from love, asking God to take them to peace with him.

    My Uncle who died on my birthday in 2011, had his partner with him and just before he died, he squeezed her hand – he hadn’t recognised her for several weeks and had been out of it with dementia for some time before that. It was a blessing to her that he knew she held his hand and gave that sign of his love for her, even with his last breath or so.

    Than his children gave him, a life long Catholic, a Humanist Funeral. As he wasn’t married to his partner, she couldn’t influence them in any way. She now has regrets that she will take to the grave that she failed him at the end.

  4. Ah, dying a good death. Much to be prayed for. I have come to the conclusion that, assuming we are given the years, that advancing age is the time Our Blessed Lord gives us to prepare for the next stage of our journey.

    As for sins of omission – often overlooked but I know one of my constant sins, and always a good start to prepare for the Sacrament of Confession (or Reconciliation as most prefer 😉 )

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