One doesn’t hear much these days about the pious practice of praying for  a happy death.  Combining those words “happy death” seems incongruous. How can death be happy?  For Christians the response to that question is simple.  For Christians death is considered happy since it represents the entrance to new life, a new life of unending happiness promised by Jesus to his faithful followers.  That is why Christian writers referred to death as   a “dies natalis” – a birthday.

That view is, of course, a challenge to faith.  Fear of death remains.  There is fear of the unknown.  One can speculate about death but the experience of death is always personal and unique.  There is also the fear of loss of the good things one has experienced in life.   There is sorrow at leaving family and friends and anxiety about some truly important tasks left undone.

What, then, constitutes a happy death?  What is it one is praying for when praying for a happy death?  It could be praying to be spared a prolonged and painful end of life.  It could be praying for the grace to die conscious of God’s merciful love with the name of Jesus on one’s lips.

In any case one must face the inevitability of death and wonder, at least from time to time, when one’s hour of death will come.  What follows is a reflection by Father John King, OMI that can be helpful in that regard.

If there should come a day
When I could say
I will die tomorrow
I would say it without sorrow.

I may never know the Lord is near
He may hide lest I fear
Tho it seems a blessing I should know
Tomorrow is the day I go.

Seeming does not make it true
Far better I should trust in you
Live each day as best I can
Until you take me by the hand.

Long I have sought to have my say
I‘ve learned my words get in your way.
So keep your coming secret.  If you care
Come, Lord Jesus!   Anytime and anywhere.