One of the things which we, as seniors, know full well, is that we will certainly soon face the day when we will round that final bend in the road of life. Some of us do our best to ignore our impending leave taking; some of us are terrified of it; and some of us just accept it with a fine degree of helpless fatalism.
There is nothing, I think, so horrible as to see, in the eyes of one who is fully aware that he/she is not long for this world, that absolute fear which transcends all fears.
Almost as bad is the facade of hopeful certainty on the faces of those who have not lived very good lives until the last few years. Then, with the realization that the end is coming sooner rather than later, they suddenly took up with some religion in the hope of redeeming themselves in the eyes of their God. Then, by way of an overt display of religious fervour, seek to acquire enough “good points” so as to outweigh the less than exemplary lives they have lived. I doubt that God, if there is one, is fooled by this by this pathetic stratagem. I doubt that these people, deep in their hearts, are themselves fooled by it.
So how then, are we to manage this rather disturbing awareness of mortality? How are we to deal with the “judgement” which many believe is coming? Can we really expect to put enough “brownie points” on the ‘good’ side of the ledger to out-weight the bad points already there and thus save ourselves from an eternal hotfoot? I think not. Nor do I think that we should even try.
Perhaps what we should be doing is just saying to ourselves, “what’s done is done”. “Let me learn from these life experiences and resolve to live the way I should have done for what time I have left. Let me leave off ‘sucking up’ to God and just behave myself for whatever time remains to me without asking for, or expecting, any favour or advantage for doing so.”
Instead of trying to show God what a ‘saint’ one has become, on his behalf, why not simply do one’s best to live like a normal, healthy, decent person amongst our fellow man.
Suddenly becoming fervently religious and totally pious isn’t likely to fool anyone, least of all God and ourselves. It is obvious to both that this is a desperate, last ditch, attempt to ward off our natural fear of death and, if we believe in an afterlife, to try to position ourselves so as to avoid spending eternity in a pretty unpleasant place. And it ain't gonna work! Not for a New York minute.
So instead of being “last minute saints” why not use the knowledge and experience you have gathered during a long lifetime and live the life you know you can. It’s the little things that count.
I won't go into this at length but here are a few examples of what I mean. Try as hard as you possibly can never to lie. No little white lies; no big ol’ dirty lies; no lies of omission; no lies. Period. Shut your doggone mouth rather than lie. Just do it. It will make you feel better about yourself and it will set an example for your children and grandchildren.
Also: Treat your fellow man/woman the way you know is proper. Never mind what they have done to piss you off; that is their problem and it is for them to figure out how to deal with. Just you treat them right. All the time. Every time. It won’t let you “pay them back” for whatever transgression they may have committed against you but then, paying them back would only have brought you down to their level anyhow. And you know perfectly well that two wrongs never make a right.
Another: Leave off giving yourself a hard time over the sins and wrong-doings of the past. That’s spilt milk, water under the bridge, over and done with. You know that. Don’t make yourself look a fool in your own, and others, eyes. All of us have done similar things. It is part of the human experience. Try to take from that experience something of value; the knowledge that this was not a good way to behave. Build on that knowledge by building a philosophy of life which encourages you to do better.
All the moaning, wailing, weeping, gnashing of teeth, praying, donating to some church, pious worshiping, etc., etc., won't convince any deity that you have become a better person, worthy perhaps, of entry into heaven. Living a better life may not either. But then living a better life is not intended to ‘buy your way into heaven’. It is intended to make use of your lifetime of experience for your own personal enhancement as a human being and it may, just maybe, set an example to those around you which would set them on the right path sooner than you found it.
The great thing about this way of looking at things is that it is applicable no matter what your religious conviction may be or even if you are, like me, an atheist. It recognizes the value of proper behaviour for its own sake, and yours too, rather than as an attempt to make points with some deity. I would also be willing to bet, that if there is some deity out there, He/She would be inclined to look with favour on someone who has had the intestinal fortitude to learn from life’s experiences to improve their behaviour, just for the sake of being a better person, much more than He/She would on those who are trying to ‘brown nose’ their way into heaven.
Forget about saintliness; just be the best human being that you can be. The reward for this might not be heaven, but it will be a knowledge of what it feels like to be a fully, gloriously, decent, fine human being.
Who can ask for more?