For the longest time, people around the world (especially in North America) have associated death with the Grim Reaper. Typically “he” is a creepy skeletal guy donning a dark hooded cape and a scythe to reap the souls of the dying. Now, if you live in East Asia, the Grim reaper is often portrayed in media as a hotter-than-hot, Calvin Klein-type model with luscious lips, stunning hair, and super stylish garb. He’s not intimidating at all, but would certainly make any woman want to give up the ghost! (Take these for example: Goblin:The Lonely and Great God, Tomorrow, Black, Doom at Your Service — you can thank me later!)
In the Encyclopedia Brittanica, Amy McKenna shares that “The Grim Reaper seems to have appeared in Europe during the 14th century. It was during this time that Europe was dealing with what was then the world’s worst pandemic, the Black Death, believed to be the result of the plague. It is estimated that about one-third of Europe’s entire population perished as a result of the pandemic, with some areas of the continent suffering far greater losses than others. The original outbreak of the plague occurred during 1347–51, and outbreaks then recurred several other times after that. So, clearly, death was something that the surviving Europeans had on their mind, and it is not surprising that they conjured an image to represent it.”
It makes a lot of sense that people who are at the brink of dying often feel scared. Society has done a good job at linking death with negative imagery, legends, and stories that propagate fear, doubt, and confusion about something the word of God calls beautiful (Psalm 116:15). Why is that? I remember hearing a friend once say, “We often fear what we don’t understand.” Think about it, how difficult is it for you to talk about death compared to talking about a wedding or a birthday? If you understand and believe that death is not the end, dying should bring you comfort and excitement for what is to come. However, even people of faith tend to get nervous around this subject.
In my book “Chasing Life: Lessons on Suffering Well“, I regularly talk about death and suffering. I took the fear I felt whenever I thought of the unknown and turned it into a hopeful and exciting mystery. Why should the unknown be something we fear anyway? Perhaps death is something we don’t know much about, so it leaves our minds filled with questions. What happens after we die? Where do we go? Will we cease to exist? I used to suffer through those thoughts and would let them consume me to the point where I would disregard the fact that God is constant, and that He will be with me then, just as He has been with me since the beginning of my journey.
I often say to my friends, “What is the worst thing that could happen when you die?” They reply, “Well, you open your eyes and you are staring at the face of your Creator.” That doesn’t sound scary at all to me. Now, if you are of no faith, I do not know what there is to bring you comfort. But in this blogpost, I want to leave a few tips to help you deal with “end of life” stuff you need to plan for. Believe me, once you have taken care of these things, you will feel an overwhelming sense of peace, and you will transfer that same feeling to your loved ones.
Use the following checklist from Trust&Will.com to ensure you have a plan that’s on point and complete. You can go to their website for more detailed information.
- Prepare your end of life planning documents
- Decide between a Will or Trust
- Make a list of your assets
- Determine end of life housing plans
- Write down your final wishes including funeral plans and burial arrangements
- Create an obituary and/or death notice (I would say this last one is optional, but you might find it uniquely empowering)
Besides those necessary preparations, I would add the following items that are more geared towards the emotional and spiritual aspect of your journey:
- Prepare and tackle a bucket list — regardless of how much time you have left. This creates excitement and gives you a sense of fulfillment.
- Have deeper and more meaningful conversations with your loved ones.
- Leave nothing unsaid.
- Make peace with God. I often ask God, “Am I walking in covenant with you?” Say what you need to say to Him –good or bad. He can handle it.
- Share your story with others.
- Try (if you can) not to leave debt for your loved ones to deal with after you are gone. It can be unfair to them.
- Manage your emotions, especially with those around you who are trying hard to understand what you are going through. Be kind and listen well.
- Journal about your journey or write notes of affirmation for your loved ones. Those will become special mementos that will leave a piece of you in each of their lives. Video is another creative method for this.
- Make good memories in the time you have been given.
- Love and respect your life! How you treat yourself and others will either make you fearful about death or hopeful and at peace.
And now that you have your affairs in order, go live a loud and joyful life free from fear of what lies beyond.