The priest was asked to tell a nineteen year old girl that she has a rare liver disease and had only three months to live. “I was speaking to the doctor today, Carol.”
“What did he say?” “He says you are quite ill.”
“Serious?” “Yes, the doctor says it’s serious.”
“Does he think I’ll get better?” “No, the doctor does not think so.”
“Does that mean that I am going to die?” “Yes, Carol, the doctor thinks so.”
“Did he mention anything about time?” “Ah you know the way it is, Carol, they never really know.”
“Look, Father, on the level – did he mention anything about time?” “Well, he did say about three months.”
“Father, you’ve got to help me.” “Carol, I will do anything I can to help.”
“Because I want to make this easy for Mommy and Daddy.”
The priest continues saying that he could not believe it. Her concern was not herself but her parents. Carol realized that being a Christian meant doing her dying during her lifetime and not at the end of her life. Death is like a pile of sand at the end of life and we are asked to take and sprinkle throughout every day of our lives. Dying to herself = Loving as Jesus did.
Every time Carol smiled concealing her pain, every time she withheld a complaint or reached out to another patient in the ward, every time she helped the nurses in some way, every time she put others before herself, her selfishness would die a little. And love would be born always a bit more in her and around her. Like her Master. Jesus did not wallow in self pity on the cross. He reached out asking His Father to forgive those who were killing him. He entrusted his mother to John. He reached out to Dimas. The physical death was easy after that – the real dying had already taken place!
One Sunday a father took his four year old daughter for a walk. They passed by a cemetery and the girl pointed out to the graves and tombstones and asked (these tough questions that children ask!), “Daddy what are those?” The father fumbled a response, “These are people who lived here around us and when God wanted them, he sent for them to go and live with him in his house with the angels and the saints.” The little girl thought about that for a moment or two and then with disarming simplicity, she pointed out again to the graves and said, “And I suppose, dad when they went away to live in the house of God, this is where they left their clothes!”
Without knowing this girl was repeating what the Gospels say. On Easter Sunday, when Peter and John came to the tomb, they looked in and they saw the linen wrapping lying there and the face cloth that had been on his head rolled up in a place by itself. Jesus was not there. His clothes were!
Father Bede Jarrett says – I like this -, “Death is only a horizon; and a horizon is nothing save the limit to our sight”. Only a tiny part of our lives is lived in human form. We are a pilgrim people. We are on our way home.
(c) Fr. Pius Sammut, OCD. Permission is hereby granted for any non-commercial use, provided that the content is unaltered from its original state, if this copyright notice is included.