BY REV. THOMAS EARLY - ST. ALBAN'S EPISCOPAL CHURCH
I once shared an office in seminary with one of the kindest Kansans you'll ever meet. We quickly bonded as two mild-mannered Midwesterners living in the rural south.
That's why it caused more than a little concern when I saw a replica of a human skull on his book shelf. I wondered if he had had a previous career in a death metal band or if I was going to be treated to the famous monologue from Hamlet. I timidly asked: "What's with the skull?" He told me it was a tradition in Christian monasticism to keep a skull in your line of sight while you worked. The practice is called "Memento Mori" or "remember your death."
Now we Christians have blessed assurance that we have been baptized into the resurrected life of Christ. It seems though that while we know how the story ends we still sometimes don't like to think about death. It's a hard thing to come to terms with but everyone reading this article will someday die. Hopefully the newspaper will still let me write for them! But it's the truth that we all have an expiration date. Ignoring that grim reality may seem like a good choice but really, it's not. In fact, it’s a good way to see every day as a given and not a precious gift from God.
But what I really want to write to you about is something a little more practical. I have a request: plan your funeral now. Meet with your pastor, priest, or funeral director. Pick out your readings, choose your hymns, and have the conversation. If you wait until you’re comfortable you will wait too long. You will leave behind work for those who will already have the work of grief.
This is your responsibility. And it is actually kind of fun. Rather than leaving behind a chore, you will leave behind a gift. So, don't wait, remember that you will die. Take the gift of today and start working on the last good deed you will ever do. Skull optional.