How to finish well at the end of life…Gratitude


And Israel said, “It is enough; Joseph my son is still alive. I will go and see him before I die.”  Genesis 45:28

Oh, what a blessing to say sincerely, “It is enough” when the end is near!

One way to make sure we experience that blessing is to say it today. And every day.

Unfortunately, Israel, formerly named Jacob, had lived his whole life trying to manipulate circumstances so he could make things work out in his favor. And, he’d spent much of his life focussed on what appeared to be a tragedy when his favorite son disappeared. If only he could have trusted God and been a strong, loving, grateful father to the 11 sons who still lived with him! By trusting God he could have known, ‘ It is enough” all along.

So, say it out loud right now: “it is enough…” Then fill in the rest with what God has blessed your life with that you know you didn’t, in fact, couldn’t have earned or deserved.

For years I’ve thought about the 58,000+ young men who died in Vietnam while I was attending veterinary school. Thinking about them, and what could have been, makes me realize what a gift each day is for me.

I won’t bore you with a long list of other blessings, each of which could stand alone as incentives for me to say, “It is enough.”  I’ll bet your list is a long one, too.

Right now, my concern is whether I’ll face those last challenging days with the same degree of gratitude.

Practice, practice, practice

  • I can practice being grateful each day.
  • I can smile and smile and smile day after day.
  • I can focus on the needs of others and look for ways to encourage and help people in my life.
  • I can intentionally believe God; not just believe in God.
  • I can ask God now to enable me to express these attributes right up to my last breath.

So, what does finishing well look like?

As I write this post, Connie has a friend who’s caring for her 89-year-old mother who’s dying from colon cancer. This lady is a shining example of one who’s finishing well at the end of life.

She recently underwent emergency surgery for what the doctors thought was an intestinal blockage. As the nurses prepped her for the high-risk procedure, through a huge smile she told her family, “Don’t worry about me. I’ll wake up and either see your faces or I’ll wake up and see Jesus’ face”.

Those who attend to her and visit her all agree, she’s a blessing and an encouragement. Even during painful and seemingly desperate days of confinement.

This attitude is not new for her. It’s been her way for decades.

If I reach a similar state before “graduating to Heaven”, I want to…

  • Be grateful for the abundance of awesome experiences I’ve enjoyed.
  • Know that Connie, my children, and my grandchildren understand how much I love them and admire them.
  • Remember to be a blessing to whomever I encounter in my last days.
  • Trust God’s timing and His plan for my life all the way to the end.
  • Know in my heart, “It is enough”.

It seems there are a few people who somehow have a natural tendency to maintain a positive and happy outlook on life. Whether it’s genetic or environmental or something else, I don’t know. But, for most of us, finishing life well will require a commitment to set ourselves up for success.

Still, knowing what to do and doing it are two different things.

Knowing the best answer is not helpful without application…

“Why do we need to inject this horse twice a day with an antibiotic?” There I was, a senior veterinary student, standing beside a stall in the large animal clinic during rounds with a professor and several classmates. The question was clearly pointed directly at me. My mind froze. Panic struck and clarity escaped me completely. I knew it was imperative that I share my knowledge quickly for maximum effect. I blew it and gave a reason that made me look pretty stupid.

If I’d seen the same question on a written exam when there was much less pressure, I’m confident I’d have answered correctly, “We have to give it twice daily to keep the blood concentrations at effective levels around the clock.” I learned a more valuable lesson that day than the correct answer to a question. I learned the importance of the application of knowledge.  I learned that the value of having knowledge is way lower than the value of being able to apply it at the right time.

Hopefully, we’ve gained some knowledge about “finishing well at the end of life.” But, as I learned back in vet school, it’s the application at the right time that will matter in the long run.

I hope these posts have stimulated some interest and introspection as they have for me.

Please share your thoughts and ideas with me and other readers so we can all improve our chances of finishing life well.



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