With the decision made months in advance, the tickets are purchased, and the planning begins. As the date approaches, the list of things to do fluctuates in length as one thing is marked off and five more need to be added. The closer the departure date comes the more matters of greater detail come to mind. "Okay, I have to remember to pack an extra of this or that just in case. And, oh yeah, I should get some snacks for the road. In the meantime, I have to pick up some gifts for those I will visit," the list goes on and on.
But planning a journey is not just about the trip. How best to arrange what one is leaving behind is also of vital concern. The stress mounts and one hurries around in the last hours trying not to forget anything. "Okay, make sure to empty the refrigerator so nothing spoils while no one's home. Of course, I have to remember to take out all the trash just before I leave. And what was that other thing? Yep, drop off a set of keys at the neighbors' so they can water the plants."
Even with knowing so early on that the day would finally when come it is time to go, it always seems there is more to do before a trip. "It would have been nice if I could have completed this or that project first or maybe even visited our previous elderly neighbors to get their prayers for a safe journey." Naturally, the longer one will be gone, the more preparations have to be made. But minutes, hours, and days seem to have raced by unnoticed, and there is no more time except to do what must be done. Working until the wee hours of the night, the packing and preparations must finally come to an end. One just can't go on any more. Exhausted, the rest just has to be left as it is.
Maybe the journey one prepares for this time starts before the crack of dawn. With bulging luggage waiting by the door, one manages to dress, grab a bite to eat, and hop into a taxi. As the driver asks, "Where to?" you pull away leaving the comfort of what is familiar behind, and it isn't long before one realizes whether the planning and preparations were sufficient. If all goes well, one eventually arrives at the desired final destination tired but pleased. If not, what a miserable state it is to be in!
Ironically, we often fail to remember that every day we are making preparations for a voyage. We are all headed for an everlasting destination that begins with death. From the moment we were born our preparations began. Our parents raised us. Our environment influenced us. But the choice was ours. Would we choose to serve our Creator or ourselves? Would we pack our bags with deeds pleasing to Him or frivolous desires?
Are we striving to maintain a pure heart by following the straight path or have we allowed it to become black with the grime of evil? Even a slight turn away from the best of destinations can quickly carry us far away. As Prophet Muhammed (peace and blessings be upon him) taught, the sources of True Guidance are the Qur'an and his traditions. If we are steadfast in the pursuit and application of this knowledge that has been laid out for us like a roadmap to righteousness, we can have hope that we are adequately ready to face our Lord.
But if we don't care or strive each day, our final hours will come upon us while we are in a state of negligence. The angel of death will seize us harshly, and the consequences will only be what we deserve for our self-indulgence and indifference. Like a security officer at the airport searching through the contents of our luggage piece by piece in front of not hundreds but billions of onlookers, that book written with each and every action we have done over the years will be read out loud. And if we have considered this moment and made ready for it, the Most Just, the Judge, the Merciful, can issue a gracious verdict regarding our eternal destination. But if we did not reflect on the eventuality of this moment and arrange our lives accordingly, then we can anticipate nothing but humiliation in the most anguishing and lasting sense for eternity.
As Allah, the Most High, the All-Knowing, tells us in the Qur'an 75:13:
"That Day will man be told (all) that he put forward, and all that he put back."
So while it can still make a difference, while we can still repent and strive, let us ask ourselves that crucial question, "What have I packed?"