Keeping the End in Mind

Last night I stayed up late to watch Jack Layton’s funeral.  During the day I did see pictures and read the Eulogy on line and the many Tweets from Canadians as the funeral was taking place.  I figured I probably didn’t need to sit and watch the event itself  but am very glad I did.

There were many amazing tributes about Jack’s life that touched me, but the one thing I woke up thinking about this morning is the fearlessness with which Jack approached his death.

When his cancer came back, Layton sat down with his wife and his pastor, Brent Hawkes,  and planned out his funeral.  Not, as Hawkes said, because he was giving up or because he was ready to die, quite the opposite.  But he wanted to be ready for the end, whenever that would come.

 “Jack was in good spirits and said, ‘I am going to fight this cancer, I am going to beat it, but we need to have plans in place, just in case,’” said Hawkes, pastor at the Metropolitan Community Church.

Not everyone can look at their own mortality and acknowledge it as a real part of life and only a matter of time.  When faced with the possibility of death due to illness I have seen people respond in several ways.  I have seen those who spend their last days angry, or bitter and resentful and I have seen the opposite.  People who embrace the end and do all they can to express their love for those around them.

What does that mean for me?  That’s what I woke up thinking about today.  We will all die, and even those of us who are in good health have the possibility of sudden death through accident or
tragedy.  None of us knows how much time we truly have left.

This reminded me of Stephen Covey’s line to “Begin with the end in mind”.  Covey speaks of this in terms of remembering your goals and if you keep the end in sight it gives you the courage to keep striving for them.  It does however apply to the end of our lives as well.  To keep the end in mind, the fact that I am mortal and only have a limited time to my life, keeps me focused on what really matters in my life.

To wake up each morning and acknowledge that the day stretched before me is a gift……that is the way I want to live my life.  To keep in mind the end.  That I don’t really know how many days like today I will have.  So if I am stepping over toys, wiping up spills, and dealing with yet another unhappy patient at work, I can be grateful that I am here.  Thankful that I am able to help that patient, wipe my child’s tears, kiss the hurts and referee the fights.

Being able to look my own mortality in the face keeps me grateful. And I believe that gratefulness is the root of happiness.  I cannot be truly thankful for my life without being happy.