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Certainly you’ve heard this inescapable truth before: “No one knows when their end will come.”

Some die young, even as babies, children or youth. Some live to be older, some aged, living 100 years or more. But each of us, at some point in our lives, faces our own mortality. Philosophers and psychologists call this truth the central fact of our physical existence—that one day, it will end.

That realization may come suddenly from a visit to a doctor, from imminent danger, or gradually as we see our parents, friends and others pass away. In the latter case our sense of loss and mourning may be extreme, as grief overwhelms us. At such times we may ask ourselves, “Did they know I loved them?” or “What could I have done to show my love?”

I have a big family, and many have died at varying ages, even a nephew only days old. All I could do was offer my sympathy and condolences, and any help I might provide the parents to ease their pain. When my own father died of a massive heart attack at age 50, I flew across the country to make all the arrangements and represent the few of those back home who still knew him, including my mother and his own mother. My feelings were mixed; I had only lived with him for a few years as a teenager, since he and my mother divorced when I was four years old. But if you’ve ever had to bury a parent, you know how I grieved. At his funeral service I said a Baha’i prayer for the departed, the only words spoken on his behalf. I felt alone, yet I knew I must carry it through.

My father was a veteran, and when I was handed the tri-folded American flag I cried. The words “On behalf of a grateful nation” rang in my soul. No one knows their end, and few realize their legacy on this Earth, or where they will reside on the next plane of our spiritual existence. Baha’u’llah wrote:

Know thou that every hearing ear, if kept pure and undefiled, must, at all times and from every direction, hearken to the voice that uttereth these holy words: “Verily, we are God’s, and to Him shall we return.” The mysteries of man’s physical death and of his return have not been divulged, and still remain unread. By the righteousness of God! Were they to be revealed, they would evoke such fear and sorrow that some would perish, while others would be so filled with gladness as to wish for death, and beseech, with unceasing longing, the one true God—exalted be His glory—to hasten their end.

Death proffereth unto every confident believer the cup that is life indeed. It bestoweth joy, and is the bearer of gladness. It conferreth the gift of everlasting life.

As to those that have tasted of the fruit of man’s earthly existence, which is the recognition of the one true God, exalted be His glory, their life hereafter is such as We are unable to describe. The knowledge thereof is with God, alone, the Lord of all worlds. – Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, pp. 345-346.

Most of us understand that how one has lived their life determines their abode in the next. Millions believe a life of sin will lead to the dark pits of hell, fire and damnation, described vividly by Dante. Millions do not believe in such an end, regardless of their acts. Other millions believe that a chaste and holy life will lead them to the paradise of heaven, such as that described by Muhammad for the true believer.

Whichever you believe, one thing is true: our legacy will be judged in the next world by our words and acts in this one. If you believe all human beings have a soul, then you probably believe in judgment day upon our death, when our souls will be called before God:

O Son of Being! Bring thyself to account each day ere thou art summoned to a reckoning; for death, unheralded, shall come upon thee and thou shalt be called to give account for thy deeds. – Baha’u’llah, The Hidden Words, p. 11.

There it is again: “unheralded.” None of us knows when our time will come. That thought has changed untold behaviors from bad to good in an instant. Although I’ll admit that I am not always conscious of my actions and often make mistakes and errors of judgment, yet for the most part thanks to the teachings of the Baha’i Faith, my life, my marriage, the things I do, my relationships, are on an even keel and positive.

But no one knows their end, and we don’t know what we will accomplish or how we will change during our last days, months or years in this world. So don’t give up—others can learn from our life lessons, see our fortitude and know we are still trying. We can’t give up, not on ourselves, not on God, not on doctors or loved ones, not on anyone—especially not on ourselves.

I hope you find the part you were destined to play, and recognize your own inner strength and vision, and I hope you’re ready for “the cup that is life indeed.”

7 Comments

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  • Rosslyn and Steven Osborne
    Dec 07, 2018
    I agree that we are judged daily especially when difficult situations may happen and how we react is then 'noted' perhaps. If we handle it poorly a very similar situation will be presented to us again to 'see' how we respond the next time? I am sure I read where all our past deeds/doings are recorded and will be made visible to us when we pass over, assuring us that nothing is hidden from God. By trying to improve each day is only benefitting us not God he can dispense with us at His will, so I just try to ...improve as much as I can and hope I don't fall back into badly handling a situation when it come before me next time. Thank you Rodney.
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    • Andrew Scott
      Dec 07, 2018
      It is a marvellous thing that we have choice: we can either strive to be a conduit of joy, or wallow in selfishness. Read John Hatcher on this site. There is a tremendous concordence between the Baha'i Writings and evidence of those who have crossed the line and come back. It is less that we are judged, and much more that we are made to witness and call ourselves to account of the effect of our actions on others. "It is clear and evident that all men shall, after their physical death, estimate the worth of their deeds, and realize ...all that their hands have wrought." – Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 170.
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    • rodney Richards
      Dec 07, 2018
      Rosslyn and Steven, Thanks for your comment. I'm not sure how God will dispense with us, as I believe He is more kind and gentle on us than we can imagine. At least in my own life I feel that way, seeing more of God's mercy and helpfulness than fire and brimstone.
  • Mark David Vinzens
    Dec 05, 2018
    Love to read your posts, Rodney. The posts on this page have positively influenced my life. I am not converted to the Bahá'í Faith (my spiritual home is between Sufism and Christian mysticism), but it was helpful. Thank you.
    • rodney Richards
      Dec 07, 2018
      Mark, I'm glad BahaiTeachings.org has had a positive influence on you, that's how they are intended. It was Zen that first got me started on my spiritual journey for something concrete in my life to ascribe to, and I still read Lao Tzu to this day.
  • rodney Richards
    Dec 05, 2018
    Robert, good catch. Every day we are asked to account and ponder what the next will be like, perhaps with a changed attitude. I don't know how we will be judged upon our death, but feel it makes sense that there also we may be called to account.
  • Robert Green
    Dec 04, 2018
    "while others would be so filled with gladness as to wish for death, and beseech, with unceasing longing, the one true God—exalted be His glory—to hasten their end.
    Death proffereth unto every confident believer the cup that is life indeed. It bestoweth joy, and is the bearer of gladness. It conferreth the gift of everlasting life." keyword "beseech." "Whichever you believe, one thing is true: our legacy will be judged in the next world by our words and acts in this one. If you believe all human beings have a soul, then you probably believe in judgment day ...upon our death, when our souls will be called before God." I think I am judged everyday. you seem to refer to the "last" judgment... with a body.
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