Imagining the Death Bed


file2751246979796“I’m sorry, but it’s terminal,” your doctors says. “You have very little time left—a couple months at best.” What would you do? Take all of your money and go on a dream vacation? Buy the boat you always wanted? Party like there’s no tomorrow?

Of course not. You would likely plead for a miracle and then proceed to get your soul in order. With mortality on the horizon, worldly pleasures would become less pleasurable. They don’t last. They don’t matter.

It’s likely that your soul is not quite in order all the way even though your doctor has not said this to you. Yet, your condition really is fatal. All of life is. I’m not a killjoy. Honest. But I know and you know that it’s a good idea to focus on the important things in order to be ready whenever God calls

I once read a reflection about a saint, (I do not recall which) who was working in the fields and asked what he would do if he was told he only had 24-hours left to live. His response was that he would continue doing exactly as he was doing, working in the fields. God was at the center of his life. He did not have a list of spiritual things to do that had not been done yet.

Who lives like that? We all should. Consider when you have a trip to take. If you get packed well in advance, you can relax and go about life without the stress. You have done the things that need to get done and thus it brings you peace. Well, we are all going on a one-way trip in the future. We need to get ready and then, we can go about our life in peace.

Here is something I do sometimes. You will suspect I’m a bit crazy but keep an open mind. If I really want something or I’m disappointed about something, I imagine myself on my deathbed. I think about the item or issue at hand and imagine how I will feel about it on my deathbed. It helps me get things in perspective. I don’t run every little thing through this scenario but it is good to occasionally consider life from that vantage point. Morbid? No. It is going to happen one day. It’s far weirder to act like the inevitable is not going to happen.

When I come across scenarios in movies where a love interest or having fun becomes the main priority of a character that is dying, while God is completely left out, to me, that is totally crazy. They are sinking what’s left of their life into something that won’t last. In the movie, The Bucket List, two terminally ill patients (Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman) escape from a cancer ward to accomplish their list of dreams before they die.  But an end-of-life plan to prepare for facing God by indulging in worldly desires is foolish.  It’s more important to know what God’s has placed on our to-do list before leaving earth.

At a time when people are making resolutions for the New Year, it’s a good time to reflect on what is most important in our life–all of it, including eternity. Along those lines, the book God’s Bucket List, by author and EWTN TV and radio talk-show host Teresa Tomeo offers those very reflections. As a one-time TV news reporter in Detroit, she once lived for worldly success.  Tomeo shares how the enviable career she had built for herself fell apart along with other parts of her life.  Not until she put God at the center did she find peace and a different kind of success. God’s Bucket List examines God’s priorities for us, which includes mercy, fruitfulness, fellowship, and peace.

Tomeo is no longer chasing after dust but striving for eternity and trying to drag others along with her. She was unwillingly knocked off her earthly path and set on a heavenly course.   I personally want to get on the right course myself without God needing to get rough with me. By embracing the end of life and planning accordingly, I’ll be better prepared for eternity and live with peace in this world. So, really, I’m not a killjoy at all. I even smile sometimes. J

Copyright 2015 Patti Maguire Armstrong


About Author

Patti Maguire Armstrong and her husband have ten children. She is an award-winning author and was managing editor and co-author of Ascension Press’s Amazing Grace Series and authored: Big Hearted: Inspiring Stories from Everyday Families, a collection of stories to inspire family love. Patti is a correspondent for the National Catholic Register, Our Sunday Visitor & Dakota Catholic Action.


  1. Patti, I love this reflection. It is so true that we need to imagine ourselves facing eternity when we are making decisions. I often say nearly exactly what you wrote when I speak with my family and friends about how important something is in my life or what the consequences of my life decisions will be. Imagining I am facing imminent death always makes things much clearer. Thank you for sharing on a topic that is often taboo to mention (death).

  2. Thanks, Jeannie, for sharing that we are like-minded. I love connecting with people who see things through a Catholic lens in a way that the rest of the world does not understand. Happy New Year and God bless you!

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