We do know how to make this journey – as a parent we have let go, entrusted loved ones to God’s care and said good bye in various ways – when kids first start school, when they begin to drive, when they graduate and move out. All of those experiences were in part preparation for this final letting go and entrusting to God ourselves and those we love.
Each time we lose something or someone we love, we are learning how to die – we learn to let go, to appreciate what we have had, to release that gift into another reality apart from ours, and we learn to move forward with our lives. This is true when we lose a pet goldfish, hamster, frog, cat or dog. It is true when a treasured possession is broken or lost. It is true when we loose a friendship over an argument or a move across country. It is true when we lose our relationship with someone we love through divorce, move, injury, illness or finally death. Each of these experiences of letting go are in part preparing us to let go of ourselves, to be the one to leave, and trust God and those we leave behind enough to go in peace.
Additionally, I’d add that the lesson of how to die a good death with peace is the greatest gift and most important lesson we can give – it will help free our loves ones from resentment, and will help teach us all how to live. In the Gospels Jesus repeatedly tells stories that suggest the end of our life will come without notice, “like a thief in the night,” whether that happens for us at different times, or in some great collective divine mystery. Part of the lesson of this, I believe, is that ultimately we are to live each day as though it is our last. Those among us who are aware of our own mortality, are cognizant of our own dying, and are at peace with that reality, model for the rest of us not only how to die, but how to live.