A bit cheesy, perhaps, but to-the-point."The clock of life is wound but once, and no man has the power to tell just when the hands will stop, at late or early hour.
"To lose one's wealth is sad indeed. To lose one's health is more. To lose one's soul is such a loss that no one can restore."
Not at all cheesy is St. Francis de Sales's An Introduction to the Devout Life,which I've had the pleasure of reading for the first time this Lent. Every word of it is good, but the first meditation that really caught my eye was No. 5 on death:
Preparation.A bracing nosegay of myrrh indeed: DESPISE THE WORLD. MEMENTO MORI, REMEMBER YOU WILL DIE. And let your joy be deep and full.
1. Place yourself in the presence of God.
2. Entreat His grace.
3. Imagine yourself to lie in extremity on your deathbed, without hope of recovery.
1. Consider the uncertainty of your dying day. O my soul, some day must thou quit this body. When will it be, summer or winter? in town or in the country? by day or by night? will it be suddenly or after due warning? will it be in sickness or by an accident? Wilt thou have time to confess thy sins or not? will thy spiritual father be present to assist thee? Alas! of all this we know nothing; this only is certain, that die we must, and that for the most part sooner than we expect.
2.Consider that then the world is at an end, so far as regards you; there is none any more for you. Everything will then be reversed, all pleasures, vanities, worldly joys, and vain attachments will then appear as mere phantoms and vapors. Woe is me, for what delusive trifles have I offended my God! Then will you discover that you have forsaken God for nothing! On the other hand, how beautiful and desirable will good works and devotion then appear; why have you not followed on that holy and blessed road? Truly at that hour sins which before seemed as trifles will was great as the mountains, and how faint, how weak, will your devotion then appear!
3. Consider the painful farewell which your soul must take of this lower world. It must take leave of wealth, of vanities and vain society, of pleasure, of amusements, of friends, and neighbors, of parents and children, of husband and wife, in short of everything earthly. Last of all it must take leave of the body, which it will leave pale and sunken, forsaken, hideous, and vile.
4. Consider the haste with which that body will be hidden beneath the ground, and when that is done the world will scarcely bestow another thought upon you. You will in your turn be forgotten, as you have forgotten others. God rest his soul, will be said, and no more. O death, how unsparing, how pitiless thou art!
5. Consider that when the soul quits the body, it must go either to the left hand or the right. Whither will yours go? which will be its path? even such as it has chosen whilst on earth.
Affections and Resolutions
1. Pray to God, and cast yourself upon Him. Lord, in that dreadful day receive me into Thy care! Turn that hour into blessedness to me, and then let all the previous hours of my life be bitter and sad.
2. Despise the world. Since I know not, O world, at what hour I must quit thee, I will not attach myself to thee. O dear friends, treasured hopes, grant me only to love you with a holy friendship which may endure throughout eternity. Why should I be bound to you with ties that must be severed here?
I will prepare for this hour, and make fitting preparation to accomplish the journey well; I will diligently strive to make my conscience clear, and to set in order its deficiencies.
Thank God for enabling you so to resolve, offer your resolutions to His Majesty, and repeatedly implore Him to grant you a happy death, through the merits of His Son. Implore the healp of Our Lady and the Saints. Pater. Ave.
Weave a nosegay of myrrh.
Another recollection that comes to mind is a visit to Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini in Rome with a crypt full of floral designs made from the skeletal remains of 4,000 bodies of former Capuchin friars buried by their order. A plaque on the floor before one of the exhibits, in English translation, reads: "What you are now, we once were; what we are now, you shall be."
Update: A friend suggested that St. Francis de Sales' attitude could be construed as too negative toward the created world without the qualifications I introduce in the comment box. Hence, with thanks to my friend, I refer the interested reader to my comments in the comment box linked below.