Thoughts, Ideas and Inspiration by Melissa Earley

Death and the Day Off

My day off always makes me think about death. Not death in general – my death.

The day usually starts out well. I get up early and luxuriate in the morning. There is no rush to get to the gym before I head into the church or to a meeting. I can sit around in my bathrobe drinking coffee and reading the newspaper or a novel.

Do I take on a project that will give me a sense of accomplishment? Do I spend the day at a museum or kayaking or exploring a Chicago neighborhood? Do I curl up with a book? What about the laundry that needs to be done, the refrigerator that needs to be filled and the dog hair in the corners that needs to be swept? There’s always the task at work I successfully avoided all week that I could knock out in an hour or two at home.

Can I really head to the forest preserve even if I didn’t tick through every item on my to-do list? Do I get a day off when the stairs need to be vacuumed? Maybe if I just worked a little harder my sermon for Sunday would be done and the laundry would be folded.

My day off chastises me – yes, I confess, I am inadequate.

I imagine people I know doing meaningful things on their days off. Surely people with children are on family outings connecting deeply with one another. I probably know someone who is writing a book or building a tiny house in their back yard. I’m trying not to make eye contact with my dog who wants another walk.

I assess my life. I have no significant other but many close friends and a fabulous dog. I am housekeeping challenged. I have a job I feel called to and mostly enjoy. Some days I battle loneliness and melancholy. I’ve made decisions I regret and have been wondrously blessed.

My Rabbi friend tells me Sabbath is supposed to be a celebration of life. For me it’s a moment to accept the limits of my life. I will die. I will die without skiing in the Olympics, giving birth or being as neat as my mother.

And I will die. Folding all the laundry, vacuuming the couch cushions, and preparing a sermon is not going to change that. Maybe it’s okay to catch a movie.


  1. Phaedra

    You have so eloquently put into words how I often feel. On my days off I imagine that others are more organized, more committed, getting more done, having more adventures, being more spiritual, etc.

    I feel a little less guilty about leaving my house this morning with all the stuff that was emptied out of the trailer Michael sold a month and a half ago still sitting in my dining room. Unless I die before I get to the pile of junk it will still be there when I’m ready for it. 🙂

    • admin

      Phaedra, I’m glad I’m not the only one!

  2. Teri Ott

    Your blog is my new favorite. I love your writing voice and what you write about. You’re on a roll! Keep it up! Do you know about the Christian Century’s blog network? Your blog should be a part of it.

    • admin

      Thanks, Teri. It’s high praise coming from you. I would love to be part of the Christian Century’s blog network.

  3. Aaron

    Don’t worry Melissa. People with kids suck too. 🙂

    • admin

      good to know. 🙂

  4. Janet

    Uh oh…I’ve rubbed off on you perhaps. My fascination with death-related stuff! Oh, and did I recommend that you read “Being Mortal?” It’s a wonderful commentary on just these matters.

    I love what you’re doing with the blog. You definitely have a writing gift to offer others.

    And………need I remind you, you not only have a fabulous dog, but a quite satisfactory cat, that sweet boy Chester!

    • admin

      Chester is lucky to have you as an advocate. Do you want him back?

  5. Heather MacDonald

    Thank you for sharing your writing in this way. I know my parents have already started reading your blog as well. Love it! You are awesome! I am pondering and examining my life every day….just don’t take the time to write about it. Glad you are.

    • admin

      Heather, thank your parents for me! Glad to know I have readers in TN (besides my sister). Thanks for the encouraging words.

  6. Jay

    It’s rare that I have a day off and everything turns out golden. I feel that’s in the movies, the golden times.

    My days are also spent going through the check lists of getting things done, and trying to balance what I feel like doing verse what I am compelling myself to do.

    At the end, I do wonder what it was for, in terms of going through the check lists.

    • admin

      Jay, more and more I don’t want to measure my life by checklists. I know getting those things done is necessary, but I really don’t want my life to be about that!

  7. Liz

    My days off start out very disorganized and directionless even when I have a plan and a list in place. Now I think that at some level I am feeling a conflict. Since I’m not very good at writing I will put it all out in a jumble: free day, yay!, no work, can get lots of things crossed off my list, oh-oh, no structure, feeling a little lost and empty, will there be structure after death, I am missing the people I usually see today already, how will I survive after death when I will miss every one I love so much that I will die all over again??, do I tell them often enough how much I love them, why is my damn list so important, nobody cares if I get these things done, neither do I, what am I doing that is meaningful with my life? Maybe that’s what I need – a checklist of meaningful things. For every practical item (groceries), I do a meaningful item (__________??). There’s my conflict. No wonder my days off stress me out. Another great post, Melissa, very thought provoking.

    • admin

      That’s it, exactly, Liz!

  8. Liz

    Awesome title for this post. I love your writing, every word has it’s place.

  9. Jamie

    I have tried to think of sabbath as early retirement. I appreciate the push to take it a step farther…even more freeing.
    And your writing is a somehow both raw and refined. refreshing.

    • admin

      I love the image of early retirement! Probably not a possibility for me…which is good. I’d waste my last 40 years watching West Wing.

    • admin

      and…I’m glad you like my writing. I have enjoyed what you’ve shared and hope to read more.

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