You don’t choose how you’ll die

You don't choose how you'll die {}

“Everyone knows they’re going to die,” he said again, “but nobody believes it. If we did, we would do things differently.”
   So we kid ourselves about death, I said.
   “Yes. But there’s a better approach. To know you’re going to die, and to be prepared for it at any time. That’s better. That way you can actually be more involved in your life while you’re living.”
– Mitch Albom, tuesdays with Morrie

Most of us won’t get to choose how we’ll die. A disease, an accident, a bodily malfunction.

  • For my mom, it was complications from Alzheimer’s and her refusal to eat not one more bite.
  • For my dad, it was lung cancer, even though he barely believed it even as it was happening.
  • For my baby, it was a cystic hygroma and underdeveloped lungs.

And most recently, for Lindsey, a strong young man until a year ago, it was a complete shutting down of all his muscles, eventually diagnosed as “progressive muscular atrophy.”

But just as his mom phrased it Sunday night, “now that Lindsey is well,” I know also that my mom is well, my dad is well, my baby is well, and one day I will be 100% well, too, in every way.

I just don’t yet know the form my crossing over will take.

Physically, that is. I do know the spiritual one.

I know it was a cross—a chosen one—and I know it has already taken me from death to eternal life (John 5:24).

Jesus chose to die that way . . . so I could live this way.

I recently finished reading tuesdays with Morrie, a true story of Morrie Schwarz’ death from ALS and his weekly conversations with his previous college student Mitch Albom. While it wasn’t a Christian book per se, the principles that Morrie spoke of often had Jesus intrinsically written all through them.


Listen for truths here about life, death, God. (Quotes from Morrie Schwarz by Mitch Albom)

“The most important thing in life is to learn how to give out love, and to let it come in.”

“Sounds like a wrestling match, I say.
‘A wrestling match.’  He laughs. ‘Yes, you could describe life that way.’
So which side wins, I ask?
‘Which side wins?’
He smiles at me, the crinkled eyes, the crooked teeth.
‘Love wins. Love always wins.'”

“‘The truth is, Mitch,’ he said, ‘once you learn how to die, you learn how to live.’”

Too often it takes coming face to face with a bad death to remember to live a better life—a life that’s already been chosen for us in Christ as abundant and eternal and Spirited.

Most of us won’t get to choose how we’ll die.
What we can choose is how we’ll live. 

“‘If we know, in the end, that we can ultimately have that peace with dying, then we can finally do the really hard thing.’
   Which is?
   ‘Make peace with living.’”

* * *

Thanks to all of you who prayed for Lindsey and his family. He has received his ultimate miracle. He is now fully healed.


“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you.”
1 Peter 1:3-4

36 thoughts on “You don’t choose how you’ll die

  1. Linda@Creekside

    Note to self – pull this book off the office bookshelf today. It would be good, very good to page through again. So much death and dying going on these days. But that’s nothing new, Lisa, is it.

    For those who love Christ, it’s not death’s destination that shakes us up. But the how and when of dying.

    This. A hard conversation.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I am definitely glad I finally read the book. So many good things in it, not just about death but about life. Yes, it is a hard conversation but how beneficial it can be when we have it. Would love to sit outside on a porch swing with you and talk it out, Linda.

  2. Pat Baer

    Your heartfelt post reminds me of Linda Ellis’ poem, The Dash, which basically challenges the reader to evaluate the short time we have here on earth because we don’t know how long our ‘dash’ will be. You pitch the more important truth –although we don’t know the details of our when, we can choose the how. I’m glad I found you on Imperfect Prose. Bless you today.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Yes–that dash–that’s where the volumes of stories are. That’s what we want to make count. The beginning (totally) and ending (mostly) is out of our control, but that middle . . .

  3. Holly Barrett

    I haven’t read this book in a long time…I might have to re-read it! Not only do we not get to choose how we die, we don’t get to choose when either. My nephew died in a car accident at age 19. Tragic and senseless, his death left my family reeling for quite some time. It’s been 11 years and is still present in the background every time we are together, because he is not there. I tell young people all the time, a poor choice on your part can change the lives of your family forever. Thanks for reminding us to choose how we live so that we will be ready however and whenever death comes.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      That’s so sad about your nephew, Holly. 🙁 But it’s also testimony to how valuable a person is to us even after they’ve been gone awhile. We never forget those we love.

  4. Laura Rath

    Hi Lisa,
    What a beautiful reminder that we have a choice of how we live – do we live this life fully, or do we waste it? I think I’ll be adding this book to my reading list. 🙂

  5. Kim Adams Morgan

    Hi Lisa, I have heard so many good things about this book, but I haven’t read it yet. Maybe it is time. So many people around me are afraid of death; I’m not one of them. I look forward to being 100% again and being with Christ. Until then, I know that we are here for a purpose. I strive to fulfill that purpose each day with the Holy Spirit as my guide. Blessings to you. I’m sorry to hear about Lindsey, but happy that he is now healed.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Death isn’t one of my fears either, thankfully. Not to say I look forward to the pain that might accompany it in the flesh, but I know it’s ALL good on the other side so there’s no fear of that part. But yes, until then, we are to live out our purpose and bring glory to the One who made us for that purpose. I’m so glad you dropped in, Kim. You have great insights.

  6. Ellen Chauvin

    “Too often it takes coming face to face with a bad death to remember to live a better life”

    Well said! I always thought I was living in light of eternity. That is, until my Mom’s death in 2011 (at the age of 85). It was hard, but through it, I realized that things needed to change – in me. That I REALLY needed to live with the end in mind.

    Beautiful post, thank you!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I know what you mean, Ellen. Both my dad and mom died in 2010, and I discovered that regardless of their ages or our own age, it’s still difficult to lose a parent. It’s been weird knowing that older generation before me is gone. You’re right that we do need to live with the end in mind. It actually helps us enjoy the present even more.

  7. Barbara H.

    I love the truth that now they are well. I think of that spiritually, too – my dad did not become a Christian until his early 60s, and he died at 68 without having the opportunity to grow much. I’ve wrestled a surprising amount with hard feelings over some issues since his death, when you’d think it would be easier to put then to rest. It helps to remind myself that he is one of the “spirits of just men made perfect” now (Hebrews 12:23) and that now, if we could talk, all those issues would melt away.

    This post also reminds me of Ecclesiastes 7:2: “It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting: for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to his heart.” Not that there is anything wrong with feasting and joyous times, but facing our destiny in death has a profound impact on life.

    I need to read this book some time.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Your story reminds me of things I’ve heard Joyce Meyer say about her dad as well. If I remember correctly, he came to know Jesus very late in his life too. Although there is a great measure of healing in that, I imagine you’re still left with lots of baggage to sort through even after they’re gone. I love your turning to Hebrews 12:23 for help; that is beautifully applicable.

  8. Melissa

    Thank you for sharing this truth today, Lisa. Just yesterday in Bible study we talked about always being ready for the day when Jesus returns. The same idea applies to being ready for when He calls us home.

    I know someone who wants to die suddenly. I understand that, but I think it’s sad that she lives every day in fear of being in a hospital or nursing home.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      There are times I wish that as well–to be one of the ones that goes peacefully in my sleep. But I’ve also seen a lot of good when people have more measured days before they die. Granted, no one would want to spend their last days in a hospital or nursing home, but like you, I also know people who live in such fear of it that it takes away their joy in the now. 🙁

      Dealing with death is definitely a big issue that I’m not sure our society gets right, but thankfully in Jesus we can find peace with it.

  9. Trudy

    Thank you for sharing this, Lisa. I’m so sorry about all the losses in your life. Even a little one. 🙁 It must have been so hard for you to see them struggle and suffer. I am reminded now of a book I once read that really opened my eyes to Alsheimer’s, especially from the perspective of the one who suffers it. I wrote a bit about it here – .

    Both my parents are gone, too, and even though at times my heart still aches, it comforts me to know they are dancing with Jesus now. My mom dealt with the cross of depression, and I’m so happy for her that she will never have to deal with it again.

    Tuesdays with Morrie sounds like a great book. I love the truths you mention – “Love always wins.” And “once you learn how to die, you learn how to live.”

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Thanks for sharing your review to “Still Me.” I’ve heard of it but never read it because it scares me, honestly. But maybe it would be helpful instead. Getting Alzheimer’s is a fear for me since my mom had it. Such a horrible disease. But I have to remind myself that every disease here will eventually come to an end, and in the meantime God always sends grace to cover us in it.

      Depression runs in my family tree as well and I’ve seen how painful it is for those who suffer with it. It is wonderful to know that your mom and my mom too have received full healing from it! Thanks for your prayers for me and I’ll continue to pray for your battle with sarcoidosis.

      1. Trudy

        Thanks so much, Lisa. This makes me teary-eyed – “Every disease here will eventually come to an end, and in the meantime God always sends grace to cover us in it.” Precious comfort. And I will pray for you as well. I can see where Alzheimer’s becomes even a greater fear if it’s in the bloodline, but I hope and pray you’ll never get it. Cancer either. But however God wants us to go, may He give us “grace to cover us.”

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      This book would make you cry even more, Mary, especially with the death of your father so fresh. 🙁 But it might be healing as well. It’s hard to know…

      Definitely read it sometimes though because I know you’d appreciate the truths in it. Many are quite profound, ones that come only when somebody is facing death head-on.

  10. dunlizzie

    Yes, a better life, a life that’s already chosen for us in Christ… that’s the life I want to live. His ways will always be better, His life always more real. We trade our mess for His glory at the cross. Thanks.

  11. Renee

    Tuesdays With Morrie is a powerful book isn’t it. Great post Lisa. We don’t choose how to die, but how to live. Great words here on living life . God bless you….

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Yes, it was a powerful little book. There were so many great passages that I want to think more about. It’s been sitting on my shelf for quite awhile; so glad I finally moved it up on my to-read list.

  12. Kristin Waters

    I am sorry to hear of your losses of loved ones, especially a tiny person. Death is just easier for me to cope with if it’s an adult. I know and trust that God has a plan and purpose for everyone, yet the short lives of the littles make my heart ache. They are the most special of angels, I believe.

    Morrie was spot on when he said “love always wins.” Live-Laugh-Love….we need to do more of that in the present so we can embrace whrn our time arrives to meet our Father ( making g our peace with life so we can be at peace as we journey to our everlasting one)

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I have that on a magnet on my refrigerator: “Live-Love-Laugh”. Yes, if we’d do that each day, we’d be prepared for any of those days to be our last one. God is good to give us multiple opportunities to experience all three of those in great quantities. Thanks for adding this in, Kristin.

  13. Katie

    Lisa, I am so sorry for the losses in your life. Thank you for sharing your heart with us like you always do. Thank you for the quote, “Love always wins.” I needed it today, and today it reminded me Love conquers death and FEAR. Having a bad day today. Love you friend.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      It’s always an appropriate reminder for me too that Love always wins, and God IS love. Our losses here are only temporary. I pray that today and this weekend will go better for you. Love you too! You’re special to me.

  14. Krista

    This is definitely something that I struggle with… I know where my eternal home is and that’s definitely something I should look forward too but, I hate the thought of leaving all of my loved ones behind… My parents are getting older and have already made their plans and bought their plots. They joke about it but it makes my stomach do flip flops.
    This definitely has me thinking…. I need to make peace with living and enjoying each day to it’s fullest.
    Thank you Lisa for sharing and I’m so sorry to hear of the passing of your loved ones.
    Have a blessed evening.

    1. Ruth

      Like someone else commented this is a hard conversation. Even though I’ve had a mother and husband die, it still isn’t easy to think about my own death or others dying. As believers we have Someone anticipating our arrival and preparing a place for us. Thank you, Savior! But whether we are here, there or on the way, he is always with us and his grace is enough to help us through whatever life brings. That is my hope. He is good!
      Thank you for sharing your thought, Lisa, and a book I haven’t read.

      1. LisaNotes Post author

        Ruth, I agree that even having gone through deaths of some of those close to me, too, it’s still rough to think about more deaths to come. But thankfully this is never the end of any of the stories; the best is always yet to come! Thank you for your encouragement.

    2. LisaNotes Post author

      I think your feelings are normal, Krista. It’s not easy for any of us to think about losing people we love. My youngest daughter was in a car wreck this weekend. She wasn’t hurt–praise God! But the thought of what *could* have happened still chills me. It’s sometimes hard for me to drop the fear of “what if’s” and instead stay in the moment right here where God is . . .

  15. Alison Hector

    I need to read that book! Been meaning to for years, Lisa. It’s so true that the more we come to grips with death, and healing, we become free to live to our fullest. Sometimes it’s a hard lesson to process, but once we get it, we get it!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I have had “Tuesdays with Morrie” on my shelf for a few years too, Alison. But I’m glad I finally got it off; I think you’ll be glad when the time comes for it to fly off your shelf as well. So many good books with encouraging messages out there.

  16. Pingback: I want my kids to serve!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *