Strange. Except for sparring with windmills, most of us can’t say much about the life of Don Quixote, yet we know the spirit of his days, don’t we? The events fade from memory, but not their meaning.
Here’s how Cervantes seals shut the life of Don Quixote. It’s not what the would-be knight might have expected—when does death arrive like that?—but he makes a good end.
At last Don Quixote’s end came, after he had received all the sacraments, and had in full and forcible terms expressed his detestation of books of chivalry. The notary was there at the time, and he said that in no book of chivalry had he ever read of any knight-errant dying in his bed so calmly and so like a Christian as Don Quixote, who amid the tears and lamentation of all present yielded up his spirit, that is to say died.
Here’s a simple question. How do you want your life to end? You might argue that we aren’t allowed to decide such a thing. True. We don’t decide the circumstances, but we do determine the meaning of our lives. However they might close, how we live those lives, the cares and concerns that we choose, determine their meaning.
Now ask yourself. If you were given the date of your death, if it were far closer than you thought, how would you chose to live? What would change? What must yet be done? Given a little time, how would you write the close of your story? That’s what the scriptures ask of you.
Lo, the day is coming, blazing like an oven,
when all the proud and all evildoers will be stubble,
and the day that is coming will set them on fire,
leaving them neither root nor branch,
says the Lord of hosts.
But for you who fear my name, there will arise
the sun of justice with its healing rays (Mal 3: 19-20a).
Memento mori. Remember that you will die. Because when you remember that life must close, that your story must conclude, you begin to seek its significance, the final meaning, which you alone assign to your life.
Cervantes closes the life of Don Quixote, warning others to refrain from adding to the tale. It is complete. It has found it spirit and significance in the soul of La Mancha. In the Gospel of St. John, Jesus dies on the cross, saying, “It is finished” (19:30). In the other gospels, he heaves out a final, inarticulate cry from the depths of his being. And then Jesus, the Word of God, falls silent, because everything that needed to be said, all witness, has been given.
If we live our lives fully, if we act with an eye for the end, then we can say, come the close, that nothing should be added to our story. No one should alter a word, because the promise of Jesus will have been fulfilled. We will have offered faithful witness. “It will lead to your giving testimony. Remember, you are not to prepare your defense beforehand, for I myself shall give you a wisdom in speaking” (Lk 21: 13-15).
If we are faithful, we will have written something wonderful for the Lord. It’s a daunting task, but, if we remember that our tale must have an end, and we humbly pray, the Spirit will seal the story.
Malachi 3: 19-20a 2 Thessalonians 3: 7-12 Luke 21:5-19