At the end of Moses’ life, he passes the baton on to his chosen successor, Joshua, imparting his wisdom upon him in the laying on of hands.
Joshua had some big sandals to fill, but he could go forward with the confidence that he had been chosen for the task and carried the spirit of the great prophet with him.
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In our lifetimes we are both Joshua and Moses. Like Joshua, we will have many people come into our lives, deposit gems of wisdom and whispers of their spirits, then move on or pass on. While this is often very difficult for us, we draw strength from having known them and recognize that they live on in us and we have the ability to draw from their strength and wisdom.
Like Moses, we will one day come to the end of our lives and need to decide what that will look like. As I pondered this, I picked up one of my favorite books, Tuesdays with Morrie, by Mitch Albom. Morrie Schwartz is dying of ALS, but does so with dignity, openness, honesty and humor. Mitch becomes his student, a student not simply of his death, but through that, a student of how to live. As Morrie said, “once you learn how to die, you learn how to live.”
Mitch and Morrie talked about everything. When they got to the subject of death, Morrie said, “Let’s begin with this idea, everyone knows they’re going to die, but nobody believes it. If we did we would do things differently… To know you are going to die, and to be prepared for it at any time. That’s better. That way you can actually be more involved in your life while you’re living.”
He talks about a Buddhist meditation about death in which you imagine that a little bird is on your shoulder. When you wake up in the morning, you ask the little bird, “Will this be my last day, little bird?” This is meant to lead you to deeper questions: “Am I living the life I want to live?” “Am I ready to die?” This type of meditation is meant to help us focus on what is really important.
My dad had a dear friend by the name of Tris Juergens who passed away a number of years ago. Upon his death-bed, Tris passed on these bits of wisdom. He told my dad that he had learned two things in life. One, it’s all about love. And, two, everything else is BS.
Perhaps we can learn to die early on in life, so that we can learn to live more fully. I think learning to die means accepting the fact that our death is inevitable and facing that without fear. It means remembering that each moment is precious. There is no time for anger, grudges or petty annoyances. Our time is better spent in awe of the beauty and blessings of the world, working for a better world, and living with love and compassion (even when running errands, cleaning the house and doing the necessary mundane tasks of living).
We will finally come to that place of dying and when we do, will be we ready to pass on the baton? Will we have lived the way we wanted to live? What wisdom will we have to pass on? Will we have left things unsaid that should have been said? Or things undone that could have been done? We will look back and see regrets, or will we look back and see how we loved wastefully and lived gracefully, positively and with joy? What legacy will we leave and how will be remembered?
Me? Well, as they say, I don’t plan on living life so as to arrive safely at my grave. I want to skid in sideways, shouting, “Holy cow! What a ride!”