While we’re alive, we have a lot of workshops, education, and professional development on how to do things more strategically.
But, when is the last time you considered a strategy for how to die better?
The other day, I came across this great podcast episode by Dr. Yosefa (Fogel) Wruble on precisely this.
In it, she reflects on how Moses is an exemplar of dying well.
Here are three intriguing reasons she gives, which continue to be instructive and resonant today:
1) Appoint your successor
“One of the biggest gifts that a leader can give to his or her followers, to his or her community, is the clear – very clear – appointment of a successor. We know so many Hasidic sects and groups and different political parties and there’s so much history surrounding the lack of appointment of a successor and whenever I read the number of passages in which Joshua is appointed, it always makes my heart so happy because it’s one of the most basic lessons of leadership: When you’re a leader, learn how to delegate and when you’re done leading, when your time has come to a close, make sure that you find someone who can take your place and who can bring the institution or this group of people into their next era.”
If you died today, how would people find your office, your bedroom, your bookshelves?
What would happen with your email, your social media, your bank accounts?
Who would you have wanted to forgive? To pay back? To return to with gratitude?
Many people cannot die well because of leading lives that are not yet in any meaningful order.
Before I take a trip, I often organize my bedroom and office so that – were I to die during the trip – my possessions would reflect my priorities and the order in which I had them would (hopefully) be a reflection of my soul when I had left them.
“Putting our affairs in order” has become an idiom for a one-time event when, in fact, we are all meant to put our affairs into order each day.
Augustine even described peace as “the tranquility of order.”
And so, if we want to eventually rest in peace, then we’ll need to live our lives in order.
On this Ash Wednesday, I am recalling those words spoken by Fr. Alfred Delp to a chaplain shortly before the Nazis executed the priest by hanging.
Throughout history, there are certain persons who display such a remarkably supernatural outlook toward death.
Here are a handful of examples excerpted from St. Alphonsus Maria De Liguori’s Preparation for Death: