"And I prayed to G‑d at that time saying: L-rd my G‑d..."—Deuteronomy 3:23.

I prayed to G‑d that, "at that time," at the time of my final moments, I will be saying the words "L-rd my G‑d"—Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotzk.

Have you ever caught yourself contemplating your own mortality? What will people think about you when you're gone? You're stomping out the door in a rage, when you suddenly think, "If I was hit by a bus today, would those be the last words my kids would have to remember me by?" You watch other people suffering and wonder if you'll exhibit similar grace and courage when it's your turn.

You're not actually scared enough to head back into the house to make amends, nor do you change your habits or diet, but it does give you a jolt for a while and a certain degree of self-consciousness in your interactions with others.

When you've finally moved on to a better place, do you really think you'll still care?The internet is full of websites where real and imagined last words of celebrities, politicians and sportsmen are collected. There is a genre of black humor where comedians compete to invent the most extravagant and sardonic epitaphs imaginable. Ranging from the iconic "what does this button do?" to the mordant "I told you I was sick," they reflect the almost universal fascination with our own final moments.

There is an old chassidic story of a Rebbe who lay dying, while his cherished disciples clustered around his bed. "Rebbe," they asked, "your whole life you have claimed to struggle against temptation and falsehood. Tell us, please, does the Evil One tempt you even now?"

"He does," the Rebbe confided. "Even as I lie here dying, He is telling me to proclaim the Shema out loud so that my followers will praise me for dying with the name of G‑d on my lips..."

Living Life for Others

Sadly, when people pressure themselves to come up with the perfect bon mot or philosophical construct with which to depart this mortal coil, it is often less out of identification with the concept than a desire to leave a favorable impression on those they leave behind.

But when you've finally slipped off the perch and moved on to a better place, do you really think you'll still care? From the vantage of the world of truth, our childish preoccupation with our legacy and fame will be overwhelmed by a deeper appreciation of truth and a new value system. From the perspective of Heaven, immortality will be defined as the ability to connect with G‑d and to live up to His system of Torah and mitzvot.

Our deepest prayer is that irrespective of the time and place of our passing, no matter whether we die alone or surrounded by a circle of loved ones, whether we pass away suddenly or with all our affairs intact, we will have the maturity and understanding to direct our final thoughts and feelings to nothing and nobody other than G‑d.