I’ve been thinking about my death recently.  No, there’s no indication that it’s coming soon, any more than there has ever been since I figured out I wouldn’t live forever.  And I’m not thinking about the instant that I pass from this world to the next as much as I have been wondering what sort of a difference I’m making.  What will live on after me?  Woody Allen once said that he didn’t want to achieve immortality through his works; he wanted to achieve immortality by living forever.  Life expectancies have been going up for a long time (from just under 70 when I was born to 78 now).  There is a cap, though – even Methuselah lived less than a thousand years.

Part of my pondering has been prompted by my reading material.  I’m working on The Professor and the Madman, about the start of the Oxford English Dictionary.  I completed Truth, Lies, and O-Rings (a rather good book by the end, but still sorely lacking an editor).  The subjects of these books made a lasting impact on the world (at least as measured less than a century later).  I just finished reading through Revelation in my daily Bible reading (always a good book for encouraging a longer view), and now I’m in Luke, where I find that Methuselah is one of Jesus’ great-to-the-Nth grandfathers.  Just this morning I finished reading World magazine’s end-of-the-year wrap-up, including the list of folks who died in 2009.

Part of what drove my thoughts is the preponderance of serious illness in people who I know.  I heard this week about two former co-workers being sick, one undergoing a pacemaker/defibrillator implant, and the other one having colon cancer and being confined to home after both chemo and radiation therapy.  Angie‘s friend Beth is fighting off two types of cancer in her throat.  A wonderful lady in our church has cancer of the esophagus, has finished the chemo side, and is now going through radiation treatment.  My grandmother died last March, and my aunt less than a year and a half ago.  I want to mention Billy Mays and Michael Jackson, who both died last year at 50, but I think they both were reading a different self-help book than I am.  They were doing terrible things to themselves.

And I’m not?  This morning’s brunch was fried potatoes and onions.  Not too terrible, but definitely cooked in butter and topped with ketchup.  We saw Julie and Julia about a month ago, and one of the things the Julia Child character says is “You can’t have too much butter!”.  So I was thinking this morning about finding a recipe that starts out “Add too much butter”.  My eating habits aren’t too healthy – am I eating myself to death?  I tend to be healthier than Bettie is, even though she eats better, but I attribute that to my choice of parents more than my choice of entrees.

I’m reminded that doing better is not necessarily doing good.  The “7 things” book I read recently included the fact that God does not grade on the curve.  He is absolute, binary, black-and-white.  I also read 1 Tim 4:7 (from The Message):

Workouts in the gymnasium are useful, but a disciplined life in God is far more so, making you fit both today and forever.

And that’s about where I ended up in my thinking about my death.  Train for forever, and let God handle the details.  Does this mean that I’m going to give up desserts and good-tasting food?  Nope – no nutritious cardboard for me.  I have learned that I am a hedonist.  I spent too much of my life being the wrong kind of pleasure-seeker.  @ Tim 3:2-5 says

For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these.

Avoid them?  I was them!!  But then God intervened, and now Phil 2:12b-13 rules:

work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.

Yeah, that’s the right kind of pleasure-seeking.  And it’s backed up in the 23rd Psalm (from The Message):

You serve me a six-course dinner
right in front of my enemies.
You revive my drooping head;
my cup brims with blessing.

Steve’s personal translation also includes a little too much butter.