What my mom taught me holds true
When I was a kid, Anointing of the Sick was called Extreme Unction. I pronounced it “Ex-tree Munction.” It felt very grown-up to say even if I did not quite know what it involved. It seemed to be about helping dying people exit this life — which was no concern of mine because I was a pretty robust 10-year-old. I wouldn’t die for years, if ever.
One day my mom told me to live every day as if it would be my last day. That got my attention. Not only could I die but … I actually would. Theoretically. And it could be today. But, you know, it wouldn’t be.
The older I got, the more I realized that, you know, it could be. This is when most people
start writing their bucket list — they list everything they want to do before they kick the bucket (which sounds kind of harmless when you put it that way). What’s on the list? Trips, adventures, career success, and some weird stuff that only makes sense to them. The point is to forget death and just concentrate on life.
That is not exactly what Mom meant when she told me to live every day as if it were my last.
Our last day is not just an exit from this life. It is an entrance to eternal life. Mom was trying to get me to prepare for that life. The one that really counts. How? Even if you are Christian, it seems like a hard question.
We all know what we want to do with our life, but how do we know what God wants us to do with it? We ask him. He promises to answer. Jesus tells us: “Seek and you will find” (Matthew 7:7). Even better, he tells us:
“So do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or ‘What are we to drink?’ or ‘What are we to wear?’ All these things the pagans seek. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom [of God] and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides.” (Matthew 6:31-33)
Someday, if you are fortunate, you may receive Anointing of the Sick. Imagine the moment. The priest visits. Your family stands nearby. Your to-do list lies on a table just out of reach of your bed; your well-worn pencil rests on top. Some things on your list are checked off; some are not. You are no longer looking ahead to what you need to do. You are looking back to what you have done or what you wish you had done. Those are the things to do now while you can. Maybe:
■ Spend more downtime with the kids.
■ Mend a quarrel with a friend.
■ Tell someone you love them.
■ Be present to the people who are in front of you.
■ Stop letting sin make you a stranger to God, your loved ones, and yourself.
■ Thank God for all his gifts.
■ and ( fill in the blank ).
Anointing of the Sick prepares the dying for eternal life, but the preparation starts long before. It starts now. Maybe Mom should have said not “Live every day as if it were your last,” but “Live every day as if it were your first day in eternal life.”
Susie Lloyd has won three Catholic Press Awards for her writing. Find her books, articles, and speaking schedule at SusieLloyd.com.
Permission is granted to copy for use with your classes and families.