What I have been doing is questioning when my day will come.
"Death smiles at us all. All a man can do is smile back," Maximus says.
Last year I had some pretty crazy moments where I was sure I would die within minutes. Most of them took place on crickety old Asian airplanes with pilates who looked no older than 16 years old.
Some of the others occurred after the Earthquake in Sichuan Province that killed so many people. One afternoon lying in bed, it was swiftly swept across my room, prompting me to run half naked into my roommate's room and scurry outside for a place where I could at least meet my Maker in the sunshine, not in my musty apartment room, clothes and papers strewn everywhere.
To be honest, I think that's why I was perpetually afraid of death, unable to smile back at it. I didn't want to be caught looking narrowly into my own life of disorganized papers and dirty laundry. It wasn't that I was necessarily convinced that I would cease to exist, foregoing the Biblical view of Heaven, but more that I would have died without experiencing lots of meaningful things in life.
Recently, I've felt like I'm just kinda treading water until I can start ministry again in East Asia. And without remembering those before me who have already died honorable, suffering-filled, spirit-fulfilling deaths for Christ, I will probably continue fretting about the day I breathe my last.
To be honest, if all I have is a bucket list where I want to get married, get promoted, get a house, have awesomely-athletic toddlers who are sports prodigies to groom, and get respect from important people, then I'll probably even feel that way when I start my job where I serve the Kingdom for a living.
But this is something that helps me: rereading Hebrews 11 and the "Hall of Faith" recounting how flannel-graphed Bible characters are given praise in the Heavenly places for the faith they demonstrated specifically. Many were martyred, but all (ok, except Enoch...he is almost ruining my point here...) died a physical death where they stopped breathing, their heart stopped beating, and brain synapses stopped firing.
This is what the author of Hebrews has to say about them (the long list of faithful men): "These all died, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one." Hebrews 11:13-16.