One dear lady gasped in horror when I said,
In writing your stories, teach your readers how to live,
but do more than that: Teach them how to die.
I was teaching a memoir class at the New Tribes Missions’ training center and apparently she thought I meant we should teach our readers how to commit suicide. No, no, no! That’s not what I meant!
I was thinking more along the lines of: “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die…” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-2).
Maybe I should have said:
Write stories that show readers how to live well and,
when their time comes, how to die well.
Most of us feel uncomfortable discussing dying and death. Diana Trautwein writes of the “sinking queasiness, this revelation and recognition that death is an unavoidable part of life.…”
In her blog post, Reflections on Mortality and Holy Week, Diana addresses the fact that “death happens everywhere. We are surrounded by it, entangled by it,” yet “we cover it up, tuck it away, move it aside.”
Yes, the experience of dying and death remains elusive and mysterious and can be scary for all of us, especially for young people, so perhaps we should explore those topics in our memoirs—for the benefit of both ourselves and our readers.
This will stir up some thoughts:
“You, as all God’s children, live one final breath from your own funeral. Which, from God’s perspective, is nothing to grieve. He responds to these grave facts with this great news: ‘The day you die is better than the day you are born’ (Ecclesiastes 7:1). Now there is a twist. Heaven enjoys a maternity-ward reaction to funerals. Angels watch body burials the same way grandparents monitor delivery-room doors. ‘He’ll be coming through any minute!’ They can’t wait to see the new arrival. While we’re driving hearses and wearing black, they’re hanging pink and blue streamers and passing out cigars….” (“When Death Becomes Birth,” from Come Thirsty by Max Lucado)
If you’re not afraid to die, write a vignette explaining why.
What do you think heaven will be like?
“…Someday God will wipe away your tears. The same hands that stretched the heavens will touch your cheeks. The same hands that formed the mountains will caress your face. The same hands that curled in agony as the Roman spike cut through will someday cup your face and brush away your tears. Forever.” (Max Lucado, The Applause of Heaven; also see Revelation 21)
At the end of your time on earth, what will it be like to stand before God face to face, one on one?
The lyrics of I Can Only Imagine (MercyMe) ponder that question.
“I can only imagine what my eyes will see when Your face is before me.…
Surrounded by Your glory, what will my heart feel…?
Will I dance for You…?
Will I stand in Your presence, or to my knees will I fall?
Will I sing hallelujah?
Will I be able to speak at all?
I can only imagine.…”
Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 13:12, “Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”
For years I’ve asked myself, “What will it be like, face to face with God, the Almighty, the Creator, knowing Him fully even as He knows me?”
I envision the scene: I am surrounded by His blinding-brilliant glory, and I am speechless.
I imagine I’ll fall on my face, sobbing in worship and wonder and gratitude.
What about you? What do you envision?
What stories can you write to help your readers ponder life and death and God and heaven? What stories will show readers how to live well and, when their time on earth draws to an end, how to die well?