It’s been said that high in the Alps there is a monument to a faithful guide who perished while ascending a peak to rescue a stranded amateur in inclement weather. According to the story, the monument contains these words: “He died climbing.” Whether such a plaque actually exists or not, I was unable to verify, but regardless, I love the concept. It’s the way I want to go. I want to die seeking. I want to die questioning. I want to die wondering. I want to die learning. I want to die exploring. I want to die expanding (not shrinking).
Think about this man: he died doing what he loved. He died busy. He died active. He died believing there was more. And most importantly, he died trying to save someone. As long as I can communicate the gospel of Jesus Christ, I can die doing the same thing.
I haven’t given it a lot of thought, but I at least understand the sentiment behind assisted suicide. I have often told my wife and children, “If I ever get like such-and-such, shoot me.” Again, this is not my final word on the subject; it’s just a statement of understanding, and it mostly derives from a desire to remain active in some realm until I die. I don’t want to get to where I’m just waiting … staring.
My father got there, at least that’s the way it appeared to me. I really can’t judge this because I don’t know what was going on in his head, but it appeared to me that there was nothing. He would just sit in a wheelchair for hours staring out the window. He wouldn’t read. He wouldn’t write. He wouldn’t even watch television. He might have been climbing somewhere in his mind, but I can’t know that.
That’s why I don’t understand retirement. I suppose if I had a regular job with a pension and a gold watch, I might understand retirement better, but I have friends now who have retired from their regular jobs, and yet I see them as still climbing. Not much has changed. That’s what I would expect from a follower of Christ. I would expect followers of Christ to die climbing, on their way to saving someone.