As we think about and even approach death, just as there are medical, economic and emotional issues, there are significant spiritual realities needing exploration and engagement. This exploration includes a searching and fearless moral inventory as discussed below. We all approach death as a topic in an abstract manner that that does not seem viscerally real to us. We also approach it according to our own experiences and our individual lives.
Approaching Death – Reconciliation
As we approach death, the spirit knows to prepare for it. It is a time to seek wholeness and holiness, even as we let go of physical life and well being. In the process of dying well, things that may occur to you that need attention. The identification of legal, economic and medical issues become recognized. However, Reconciliation identifies spiritual realities in the approach to death and dying. This is especially important to do while alert and alive. Spiritual concerns deal with wholeness and holiness, in the sense of the ‘shalom’, or the all-embracing peace of God.
A timeline of your life, a searching and fearless moral inventory of one’s self, provides an exercise that may lead to discoveries of great joy and great sorrow. The church would call this process “Reconciliation.” In mystical thought, Reconciliation encompasses three different stages or three different activities:
- Repentance or returning to God,
- Renewal or amendment of life,
- Union with God.
First, we take an honest look at our lives in order to find and accept our failings and our greatness. It’s not as easy as simply looking back. It gives us the task of examination of conscience and truth-telling to the self. Journaling is a way to do this. Recording as you meditate on the stages of your life what significance they have in their ultimate (holy/wholly) sense — finding the great joy and sorrows, affirming and celebrating the good, acknowledging and lamenting sorrows.
Today other media may work better, such as recording sound, video or writing a 140 character snippet on Twitter. In all that is done, remember that to wound someone by confessing some old failing or sin — forgotten and concealed for a long time — may cause problems for others. Second, renewal flows from the return and examination done in light of God. It follows from reflection and discernment that you make amends, in word or deed, for sin or wounding, as well as reaffirm love and joy.
Writing, calling, touching base in ways you imbue with meaning and holiness; reaching out to greet, acknowledge, or even anonymously send help; or even create a ritual and rite for reconciliation with someone who has passed away, can be the means of expressing repentance and moving to renewal. The heart purged can find renewal, solace, and consolation as you approach the final day.
Lastly, union finds itself in the owning and integration of life as you prepare to present it to the Creator. As your heart eases of guilt and sin and any impediments to a fuller acceptance of God, it may get to the stage where you become more conscious of the readiness to go on to the place where “I myself shall see, and my eyes behold who is my friend and not a stranger” (from the Burial Rite, BCP, p. 491.) This sacred space of God, where the encounter becomes direct and unmediated befits the place where we rest fully in wholeness and holiness.