The gospel of our lives – considering our own mortality

Calligraphy in the entrance hall to Harriet Monsell House, Ripon College Cuddesdon home to the sisters of St John Baptist and The Good Shepherd, as well as conference rooms at Ripon College Cuddesdon
Calligraphy in the entrance hall to Harriet Monsell House, Ripon College Cuddesdon home to the sisters of St John Baptist and The Good Shepherd, as well as conference rooms at Ripon College Cuddesdon

The most recent study weekend of my ordination training, was one of the most useful encountered so far as it focused on our future ministry with the dying and bereaved. But as part of the weekend, a reflective session encouraged us to consider our own mortality; what in life invites us to think about own own mortality?

We were offered some optional exercises that could have involved starting to write our will, or considering what we might put in a memory box about ourselves for a child or grandchild, or consider what we might write in an obituary about ourselves.

I found I couldn’t even consider doing any of them, alone. That is without my husband to talk them through with. What follows was what I did write, which probably also reflects a little of what I’ve discussing with my spiritual director recently about self-esteem:

We are not simply, only, merely, the person that we think we are, but we are also who our dearest family and our friends love, with the faults and foibles we don’t care to admit, but also with the skills and gifts we take for granted, attributes and beauty we simply don’t see in ourselves. To recognise our own mortality fully, do we not need to understand ourselves as others see us?

Surely we need to be realistic about the impact our death would have on those around us, both in the small practical day-to-day matters of life, and in the ‘me’-sized space that we would leave behind, a space that – depending on our view of ourselves – might be far larger, or perhaps rather smaller, than the one we tend to think we occupy.

How is the picture of ourselves enlarged, or diminished, when we place this process of creating a realistic picture of ourselves, in the light of Christ, and our relationship with God?

God sees all of us, inside and out, who we have been, who we are, and who we will be at the time of our death. Only he sees us perfectly, and has done from the first moment of our existence (Psalm 139:1-18).

Jesus has taken the journey of our mortality before, and for, us. He did the ordinary things of life that we do, as well as the extra-ordinary things of his servant-hood and ministry as the Son of God, that those of us who by our faith are known as Christians seek to emulate despite our weakness and humanity. These are things we read of in Gospels, the stories of Jesus doings in life, the good news of the impact his life had on the those he encountered in life, in death, and after his resurrection.

So when we’re asked to consider our own mortality, the fact that we will die, what we are being asked to consider is what will be the gospel of our own lives?



  1. Thanks for sharing your beautiful reflection – very thought provoking. I remember doing similar exercises during ordination training, including attempting to write our own obituaries while seated in front of an actual (and empty) coffin – sobering, but looking back it was a useful if painful process.


    • Thank you. I am glad you thought it was OK as I did wonder if it was worth posting at all, or something that was too obvious to share. I am finding that what I can share if the difficult journey that is ordination training is very limited at present.

      Writing an obituary was the other excercise offered, though we didn’t have a coffin to sit round. I think I would make the same comment; I would far rather others wrote it, as they will have a more rounded view than my frequently gloomy reflections on who I am & are called to be.


  2. Thanks from me too. It fitted with my Advent reading this morning. As I sit convalescing after my op. last week I read your ‘Alphabet’ – lovely summary of you! (I had to go back and check you included butterflies!!).


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