During an annual review, we were asked to provide copies of our
funeral plans and wills. Shocked, we looked at each other as though
the reviewer had just asked to see our tickets for a flight to
Antarctica. Though we have had our wills in place for some time, we
have yet to get around to making funeral plans.
We reacted with shock, in spite of the fact that in my parents'
last years, they often spoke freely with us about their final
arrangements. Now, having to think of ourselves as standing on the
end of the same runway where they once stood has caused a high
degree of alertness in our brains.
It isn't that we plan to stay here forever. In fact, most of the
time we consider our bags to be already half-packed. However,
writing funeral plans feels too much like we are tossing our
toothbrushes in the suitcase and zipping it shut.
Our wills are simple things. Anything we have left is to be
divided among our children and grandchildren. One thing we both
place a high value on is our recliners. Since we plan to pass away
in these chairs, we don't suppose anyone will want them after we're
gone. Other than those chairs, we aren't too worried about most of
the things we will leave behind.
What concerns us more is whether we still have some unfinished
spiritual business. Spiritually, we meant to accomplish so much
more than we actually have. Like many people, we have postponed,
ignored and pushed away many things we meant to take care of until
a more convenient time. Since none of us will reach perfection in
this life, we might be tempted to make excuses for poor progress in
A friend of ours who carries a few extra pounds once had chest
pains while she was grocery shopping. Being a hardy soul, she left
the store and drove herself to the hospital, where she was relieved
to learn she was not having a heart attack. Later she said, "You
know, all I could think about was that I was going to have to lay
there fat in my coffin."
The Old Testament writer, Sirach, reminds us that life is too
short to hold on to anything that weighs us down. Spiritually, we'd
rather rise like hot air balloons, soaring above the earth while
carrying as little as possible.
During Lent, we have an opportunity to practice giving up and
letting go so that we can leave our spiritual baggage behind. Do we
still need to ask forgiveness from someone we have hurt? Who still
needs to hear a word of forgiveness from us? What unspiritual
practices do we need to jettison? What opportunities to care for
others have we been missing?
Lent is a good time to look around, let go of lesser things, and
pare down to what is good and useful. No one wants to end up heavy
with anger, pride or greed when everything is said and