Of all the milestones that mark our life, the one we will never see is the marble slab that bears our name. One day there will be a name with "loving father/mother/son/daughter, etc" and a start date and end date. One day those impressions will begin to fill with lichen, dirt, and time and whatever we did in between will likely be lost to history.
So does it matter what we do in that dash in between? Is it important how we live our lives and who we live our lives for? The nihilistic atheists would tell you that there is nothing beyond this life but dark, cold oblivion. The eastern religions would tell you that you will continue to come back into this life to experience varied degrees of suffering until Nirvana has been achieved. The Christian believes that there is eternal life, true life, waiting beyond death and it will be a life of reward with God or punishment away from God.
As a Christian, I believe that what is done between those two dates is of utmost importance. We must surrender our lives to Christ and experience His grace to obtain eternal life of reward and not of punishment. But what if we decide not to experience His grace and eternal life while still on this side of death? Is there a second chance available to us beyond the grave? Is it really so important that we live our lives for Christ while in our mortal bodies?
For much of the history of the early church, it was understood that life was a once-off attempt. A pass/fail exercise in free will or predestination depends on how your theology built the framework of your faith. In either case, God is sovereign, and "it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment,..." (Hebrews 9:27).
No do-overs. No take-backs. Finality.
Sometime around 1000 years following Christ's death and resurrection, a doctrine came into the Catholic church with the concept of purgatory. A purgatory is a place where the believer who died in a state of grace, would be purified for the afterlife with Christ. I am no Catholic scholar, but I do know that this provided a very convenient vehicle to sell indulgences (or perhaps get-out-of-purgatory-early cards). This built a considerable stack of wealth in the church since no one wanted their beloved uncle or father to suffer more than necessary.
I have not found nor been shown sufficient Biblical backing for this doctrine, but I do find something interesting about it. Even the poor soul struggling in purgatory is expected to have died in a state of grace, in a relationship with Christ, and endeavoring to do His will in order to enter that. I don't believe purgatory is necessary since we take on Christ's righteousness and that alone is how we enter into rest. No amount of burning or suffering can achieve what Christ's sacrifice did on the cross.
Though it would be comforting to think that there is a chance, somewhat like the Great Divorce from C.S. Lewis to make that decision after death, it does not have Biblical backing. I think C.S. Lewis really hit on the truth of the matter when he postulated that even if they could choose to go to eternal life with God, they would find it unbearable. In other words, if you have no desire for Christ in this life, you will have no desire for Christ in the next.
We are given a precious gift in life. The breath we breathe is a metronomic reminder that we have this treasure in earthen vessels. The spirit of the living God lives in us so that when we die, we have the privilege of spending eternity with Him and worshipping Him.
If you have never been given a place in your life for Christ, take advantage of the grace extended to you. We only have this brief moment, this vapor rising in the air that is our life, in which to serve Christ. I hope and pray that if you have not already, you will seize hold of the grace given to you by Christ's death on the cross.