Can one ever be prepared for death?

If you are spiritually drawn to Buddhism, an extremely effective and important preparation for death is taking refuge in the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha - ideally from now until you attain enlightenment. Sometimes people ask if they absolutely have to travel to India or the Himalayas in order to find a guru and take proper refuge. No, you don't have to.

What does take refuge mean? The heart of Going for Refuge is trust. We take refuge by consciously choosing to trust that the Dharma is the incontrovertible truth. And we choose to believe in the truth that all compound things are impermanent, that all emotions are suffering, and so on. Then we choose to entrust ourselves to the truth of the Dharma, the Buddha (who taught this truth) and the Sangha (our fellow practitioners who also indulged in this truth). Once you have surrendered wholeheartedly to the truth of the Three Gems, you have taken refuge. You can take formal refuge if you wish. Participating in a traditional refuge ritual can increase your confidence in your own motivations for refuge and your appreciation for what it means to wholeheartedly surrender to the truth. However, if you don't want that, you don't have to go through such a ceremony. Nor is it essential to take refuge in the presence of a Buddhist master, monk or nun: anyone who has taken refuge can be your witness. If your neighbor has already taken refuge, all she has to do is recite the refuge verses that you repeat after her. The presence of a witness or your teacher is not strictly necessary, but it can be helpful in reinforcing your determination to study and practice. You can even take refuge all by yourself if you wish. All you have to do is recite a refuge formula in front of a statue or illustration of the Buddha. Or just imagine that the Buddha is in front of you and mentally take refuge in the Three Gems. The most important thing is to really mean what you are saying as you recite the verses.