Steve Jobs, soon before he died, said that one of the determining practices of his life was to live each day as if it were the last. That practice has had a significant place in Christian spirituality. St Benedict exhorted his followers ‘to keep death daily before one’s eyes.’ This was not to be an exercise in morbidity but rather a liberation from entanglement in all the lesser passions of life and it has the ability to transform the quality of our lives. A story was told of St Francis de Sales. Someone was surprised to find this holy bishop playing cards and asked him: ‘What would you do if you knew that you were to die and face God’s judgement in 15 minutes.” “I’d tell them to hurry up and deal the next round,” he replied. Living with God’s presence before him, he was able to enter fully into each moment.
Life is not meant to be a filling in of time before we shuffle off this mortal coil. If it is that, we will alternate between boredom and distraction. Given the quality and type of much that passes for ‘entertainment’ nowadays, we could well be forgiven for thinking that our society lives in fear of a death it cannot face. That death will surely come – but it need not be dreaded. It can be the companion of our lives teaching us to enter fully into all the partial moments of living so that we can be ready to enter fully into the great moment of God’s embrace.