Death has a way of teaching us about life. Death reminds us that when we leave this earth we take nothing — reminding you to live and showing you how to live fully, mercifully and gracefully. Death has a way of teaching you to prioritize what is important in life and how each moment matters.
Death also reminds you that what you have built and accumulated on this earth stays and does not go with you when you die. Death reminds me of the importance of the Biblical scripture of Matthew 6:19: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on Earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
My mother recently transitioned from this earth, and I’m learning so much about her life from her death. My relationship with her is getting even deeper in her death, as well as my relationship with God and myself. I spend a lot of time reflecting, examining my life and exploring where my heart is. What brings me joy? How can I always carry that joy with me?
I have always been told to think ahead, anticipate, save, work hard, secure the future to be able to have a good life. When I was younger my focus was to pursue a career, accumulate knowledge, experience to prove my worth (to others and myself). The older I grew, the purpose became deeper: seek stability, a sense of consistency and gain a deeper sense of who I am, strengthen my relationship with God and build my gifts to share with the world.
I remember at one time, I believed that I must purchase or have “this one thing” to make me feel complete, and that would resolve an issue or would bring me great satisfaction. Then when I acquired it, I would enjoy it for the moment and then something else would arise. I soon realized there always will be the “next best thing” that I will be chasing or be aspiring for more.
As I look around me and see the things I possess, I have to ask myself: What is important to me? Do I need all these things around me? Does it bring me joy? When I depart this world, what could I take with me? What do I have that lives within me that is worthy of my journey ahead?
I have been packing things up my entire life, accumulating things. How do I unpack the things I have in this second half of my life to prepare for the journey home, where I pack nothing, where the only thing I can carry is a heart filled with treasures. For me unpacking takes many forms:
1. Organize my life: Updating my will, put my finances in order and go through belongings to give away the items that I no longer use or would like someone to have.
2. Cherish and build upon the experiences: Visit countries and places I have always wanted to see. Take that trip to Paris, visit Rome and India.
3. Enjoy this time I have: Call an old friend, visit family and loved ones. Spend time with them. Relish the laughter and compassionate ear of loved ones.
4. Use my God-given gifts to share, lift and support people as they journey through life. I have learned that one of the best things in life is assisting others in attaining their life’s goals.
5. Meditate/pray to connect with God, the Universe and to strengthen my relationship with the divine. The peace within is the ultimate strength.
I have accepted as I follow God’s path that I will pack nothing. My hands will be free and empty, holding nothing; yet my heart and soul will be filled with God’s love, the Glory of God, and the experiences and memories of interactions I have had with God’s creations. I know I aspire to lead a good life by the peace that passeth all understanding that lives in my heart, and this I wish for others to experience.
What do you need to unpack in your life for that journey toward the Divine? Are you ready to pack nothing?
Simone Talma Flowers is the executive director of Interfaith Action of Central Texas. Doing Good Together is compiled by Interfaith Action of Central Texas, interfaithtexas.org.