By BILL CLARKE | Published March 2, 2023
“I picked up one excellent word—a word worth traveling to New Orleans to get; a nice limber, expressive, handy word—’lagniappe.’ It is the equivalent of the thirteenth roll in a ‘baker’s dozen.’ It is something thrown in, gratis, for good measure.” ~Mark Twain
Several years ago, I had a rather serious surgery and was recuperating in intensive care. It was almost midnight, and it was very quiet in the ICU. I had tubes connected measuring my vital signs.
A student intern attempted to get me to breathe into a device that was intended to help prevent pneumonia. The student asked me to blow into the device as hard as I could until the little red ball rose inside a cylinder. I could not make it rise because I should have been told to inhale, not blow. When I couldn’t make the ball move, the intern told me to breathe in with all my might. I tried and suddenly everything went black, and I was unconscious.
Then a strange thing happened. I could hear the activity around me as they called a “code blue” and doctors and nurses came running. I remember the head nurse blurted out to the intern, “What did you do?”
Then I could feel my inner being, my soul, leaving as it rose above the scene. I could still hear everything plainly but my inner being started moving rapidly down what appeared to be a tunnel. This is difficult to explain but at the end of the tunnel was a brilliantly lit environment that was warm and inviting. It was calling me to enter, but I suddenly realized that I was probably dying. I called out, “No, no, this is not the way it is supposed to happen! I don’t want to die. There are so many things I want to do yet. Please Dear God, help me!”
Then I began to slow down, my inner being was moving back inside the room. I heard the doctor exclaim, “We have a pulse…we have a pulse!” My inner being returned to my body, and I regained consciousness. I was sedated and the following morning I awakened, and my wife was by my side. She said, “You had quite a night.” The nurse on duty told my wife that I had a problem with the breathing device but nothing about the code blue.
I tried to explain my out-of-body experience, but she thought that it was probably a dream. I assure you; it wasn’t a dream. I experienced a brief insight into what it is like on the other side.
This experience had a profound effect on my thinking about the future. One important component of life planning is the creation of a retirement plan that identifies the things you want to accomplish in retirement. The capstone of a retirement plan is to remember the purpose of this earthly life. We are here to love and serve God with our whole being and our neighbors as ourselves.
As Catholics we believe in eternal life. Everyone will be judged by our God for all that we have done or failed to do in our mortal lives. We will be separated into two groups: those who have been faithful servants and those who have not. The righteous will experience an eternity with God and the condemned will be banished to the netherworld, also for eternity.
As you evaluate the state of your spirituality in your retirement plan, you should pause and think about what eternity means. There is nothing in our mortal world that can adequately explain eternity. Everything we know has a beginning and an end. The world around us has been here for billions of years and the average human exists for less than a century. We have clocks that record the hours in a day, the days in a week, the weeks in a year and the years in a decade or century. We understand time. But nothing we have ever experienced can explain eternity, an environment in which there is no end. Forever and ever.
Key Point: While we are able, we should do everything possible to ensure that we are judged as being on the side of the righteous and receive the gift of eternal salvation.
As the quote in the beginning of this article states, the word “lagniappe” in Creole means a free extra as in a baker’s dozen. In our retirement planning, we have the luxury of having a lagniappe when it comes to preparing ourselves for our eventual judgement.
If we have lived a righteous life, served God and neighbor, we simply need to maintain our course and commitment. If our examination reveals that there are things that we need to mend or people we may have wronged or times when we failed to be righteous, then we need to resolve our offenses. We have a lagniappe opportunity.
As the parable of the Prodigal Son reminds us, it doesn’t matter the depth or quantity or length of our transgressions, the most important thing we can do in the latter stages of life is to acknowledge our transgressions and ask for forgiveness.
In God’s eyes, it is not a matter of when we ask for forgiveness, it is simply the fact that we do it. The old adage is true, “Better late, than never.”
Bill Clarke, former business executive and teacher emerged from his third retirement to serve as the associate director of professional development for the archdiocesan Office of Evangelization and Discipleship. To send thoughts to Bill, email email@example.com.