During my early school years, there were a couple of famous speeches that stuck with me. In fact, in reading those speeches, I could imagine that I was the speechmaker. With courage beyond my years, I could exclaim:
Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!
Patrick Henry’s words, spoken on March 23, 1775, were bold words. As a child, I thrilled to say them and to imagine that I possessed such courage. As an adult, I came to realize that to say such words was to risk death. Such a realization causes one to pause and ponder.
As a young teen, committed to following Jesus wherever He led, I could imagine myself at the end of a long, successful life saying:
As for me, I am already being poured out as a libation, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. From now on there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have longed for his appearing. (Paul – II Timothy 4:6-8 NRSV)
I am now about the age Paul was when he wrote those words to Timothy; and I am not ready to depart. My fight has not always been the best . . . the race is not over . . . and I still have faith to keep. I’m not ready to die.
I am not ready to die, but I am aware that death will come. Because of such awareness, I want to live so that when death comes I may die well. By dying well, I’m not talking about the so-called “good death.” I’m talking about being at peace with my life at its ending and at peace with the God who has accompanied me for the whole of the journey.
If I can come to that point at peace with myself and my God, I can defy Dylan Thomas and go gentle into that good night.