I recently read a memoir by a woman who worked in a crematorium. (Fair warning: it was pretty gross.) The author argues that we are death-deniers and wants to bring death back into our culture. I can see her point: the reality of death is supremely uncomfortable. We ignore or outsource nearly every facet of death. As a result, deep down, a very illogical part of me believes I might beat the odds and not die. It’s absurd, of course, but it’s true.
How is this possible? It’s almost embarrassing to admit. There’s sort of the abstract “oh, we all die someday” but then there’s the very concrete “but not today!” Only one of those feels very real — and it’s the one that says I won’t die.
Losing a loved one changes the theoretical into the real. Especially when people die unexpectedly. It upsets the order of things, that we all just keep chugging along. Attending a funeral reminds us: none of us will get out of this alive. We will all die. Remembering it is good. You have a choice to write this off as grim or depressing, or this fact can light a fire under you.
The first usage of the word “deadline” appears to be during the Civil War. In an 1864 Confederate prison camp, for example, there was “a dead-line established, over which no prisoner is allowed to go, day or night, under penalty of being shot.” If you cross the line, you are dead. Simple as that.
Deadlines bring consequences, which is why they are so motivating. You won’t get shot from missing a deadline, but you might lose a job or your reputation, or a great opportunity. The external pressure of a deadline prevents you from procrastinating and screwing around.
Death is the ultimate deadline. I mean, come on: it’s called a DEADline. When your time is up, it will be up. You will have missed any opportunity to do that thing that you are called to do.
We know this, theoretically. But how often do we act like it is true? We waste the very thing that is limited. Every minute of every day, we take a step closer to that Confederate prison dead-line. Once we cross it — and we must — our life is done.
Here is why this is good: deadlines motivate. God has allowed you to be alive today. Don’t miss the opportunity that you are holding, the opportunity that you won’t get back.