Nov 16, 2023 1562 Suja Vithayathil, India

Your Time is at Hand

Are you afraid of death? I was too, until I heard of this PhD.

As a child, I always found it quite intimidating to attend funerals. I would become distressed as I imagined the deep sorrow encompassing the grieving family members. But with the pandemic, the news of neighbors, relatives, parishioners, and friends passing away led me to take a 180 degree change in the way I approach death. Death feels less scary these days. Now, it seems like a joyful return to the Father’s house after having done His will on earth. 

A steady rise in the YouTube live streaming of funerals has somehow been a very edifying experience to me. It has helped me understand how uncertain life is. “Nothing is more certain than death, but nothing is more uncertain than the hour of death.” Therefore, we ought to be prepared as death will come as a thief in the night. Saint Gregory states that God, for our good, keeps the hour of our death hidden from us, so that we may ever be found prepared for death. 

Recently, while reflecting on the last seven words of Jesus, I listened to a preacher speak about the importance of pursuing a “PhD,” which is nothing but “Preparation for a Happy Death.”  When delving deeper into this, I came across a book written by Saint Alphonsus Ligouri titled Preparation for Death. It is a must-read for anyone striving to live a Christian life. It made me realize the fragility of life on earth and how we ought to strive to live for heaven. I would like to share a few important insights which changed my overall perspective about life and death.

All worldly glory in our lives will vanish away

At the hour of death, all the applause, amusements, and grandeur disappear like a mist. Worldly acclamations lose all their splendor when they are reviewed from one’s death-bed. We see nothing but smoke, dust, vanity, and misery. Therefore, let us refrain from chasing after worldly titles, so that we may gain the eternal crown. The time we have is too short to waste on worldly vanities.

The Saints always contemplated death

Saint Charles Borromeo kept a skull upon his table so that he could contemplate death. Blessed Juvenal Ancina had this motto written on a skull “What thou art I was once; what I am thou wilt be.” Venerable Caesar Baronius had the words, “Remember death!” upon his ring. 

True meaning of ‘self-care’

Self-care isn’t about pampering ourselves with a variety of delicacies, clothing, amusements, and sensual enjoyments of the world! The true love for the body consists in treating it with rigor, in refusing it all pleasures which may lead to eternal unhappiness and misery.  

Let us visit the cemetery often

We must go there not only to pray for the dead, but as Saint Chrysostom says: “We must go to the grave to contemplate dust, ashes, worms…and sigh.”  

The corpse first turns yellow, and then black. Afterwards the body is covered with a white, disgusting mold. It then forms a sticky slime, which attracts worms that feed on the flesh. The worms, after having consumed all the flesh, devour one another. In the end, nothing remains but a fetid skeleton, which in the course of time falls to pieces. Behold what man is: he is a little dust on the threshing floor, which is blown away by the wind.

That ‘tomorrow’ to go for confession might never come

What if today is my last day on earth? If I commit a sin today and decide to reconcile with God tomorrow, what would become of me in eternity? How many poor, departed souls might have been through such regretful episodes? Once Saint Camillus de Lellis remarked, “If all these dead bodies could come back to life, what would they not do to gain eternal life?”  You and I have the opportunity to make changes. What are we doing for our souls? 

Our present life is a continual warfare with hell in which we are in constant danger of losing our souls.  What if we are at the point of death now?  Would we not ask God to grant us one more month or one more week in order to make our conscience clear in His sight? But God, in His great mercy, is giving us that time NOW. Let us be grateful to Him, try to atone for sins committed, and use every means to be found in a state of grace. When Sister Death arrives, there will be no time to atone for past sins, for she will come singing–“Make haste, it is now almost time to leave the world ; make haste, what is done, is done.” 


Suja Vithayathil

Suja Vithayathil works as a high school teacher in India, where she lives with her parents.

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