Monday, November 19, 2012

My Last Will and Testament

Writing in her weekly column in the Catholic Times, the columnist mentions a talk she gave on death before a parish women's club. November is the  month dedicated to the souls in purgatory, and the columnist tells us the women's group was well informed about what the liturgical month of November meant, but many said they had not thought of death. Daily life is like being on a roller coaster, she conceded, with little time to think of what is not directly in front of us. Death, she said, in the minds of these women was always connected with parents, older relations and friends, but was of little concern to them.

After finishing her talk with the group, she distributed a blank sheet of paper and asked them to write what they would like to see engraved on their tomb stone. On the reverse side of the paper they were to write the names of their family members, and what they would want to leave their family in their will. Judging by the expressions on their faces, she saw that they were mostly confused by her instructions. But they began to write.

After a while, she heard some sobbing from the group, as the thoughts coming to mind were difficult to keep under control as they proceeded to write. The thoughts surprised them; the women had never had the time before to entertain such thoughts because of their busy lives.

She mentioned the epitaph that was left us by George Bernard Shaw, the famous Irish play writer, who lived to be 94. On his tombstone is his light-hearted thought for all to consider when the thought of death seems difficult to accept. "I knew if I stayed around long enough, something like this would happen."

In the past death was seen as a part of life and all would stop to reflect on the death of a loved one. Rites would be at the home. The culture still sets aside days for the remembrance of the dead: New Years Day, the Autumn Festival, and the 105th day after the winter solstice, when families go to the grave sites to eat cold food and conduct the rites for the dead. During these days of festivity the ancestors are in the thoughts of family members, employing rites that bring the ancestors more easily to mind. The Church has very wisely promoted these rites, which continue to mean a great deal to the Koreans.

The columnist reminds us that thinking of death will help us make this Year of Faith more meaningful, especially if we write our last will and testament as a reminder to ourselves of how precious is the gift of life we have been given.


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