Saturday, 28 April 2012

Love and Death

Something of a deeply personal post, this one. It is strange, being an anonymous presence on the internet and sharing something deeply personal with a potentially massive audience, however I’ll just let it be strange and not think about it anymore.

 May 10th will see the 1st anniversary of my husband’s death. I’ve mentioned before that it was a good and holy death, but I have not said what a profound effect it has had on me, I am more changed by his death than by my becoming accustomed to widowhood. It is about love and sacrifice. At some point, when you are watching a loved one become more and more seriously ill, the balance tips and you know they will die. We’d started the novena together to Blessed John Henry Newman and I’d said to him, ‘Paul, if you want to serve and please the Lord in the land of the living, you only have to ask and it will be given to you.’ By about day 6 of the novena it became clear to me that his heart was set on bigger things; he was in pain and he was aware his body was wrecked, he wanted to meet the Lord. However whilst he lived, we were one flesh, and I knew that I’d have to play my part in preparing his path. I’d have to jettison any ideas of a miraculous recovery, any thoughts about the future, any thoughts of self and anger with doctors and fear of being alone, in fact I’d have to die to self, to help him die. It is the only thing I could do, to offer myself to God as a sacrifice for Paul’s holy death. I’m not the healthiest individual, but supernatural strength came my way, my closeness to God through prayer was intense.

Paul’s last few hours on earth were grace filled amid the horror of Intensive Care. A priest I vaguely knew came to anoint him. We prayed together, then he left. I called frantically for a priest who was Paul’s friend to come, but there was no reply, we’d be alone together at the end. Singing “Lead Kindly Light” and “Praise to the Holiest”, and reciting the Psalms, the saints and angels gathered round his bed. Demons were vanquished. Paul opened his eyes and slipped away as I recited a particular psalm (145: Lauda, anima); the heart monitor “flat-lined” as I said “and He will support the fatherless and the widow”.

I don’t actually want to ‘recover’ from an experience like that. I want to live it every moment of my life. I start to desire that closeness to God (that was palpable as Paul handed over is life), in every moment of the day and night. This involves a constant dieing to self and giving in love, in one way or another. Sometimes it is waking up at strange hours totally elated and needing to recite some more Psalms. Sometimes, it is forming new friendships and sensing real goodness in others. Sometimes it is fighting for the souls of those I care for. Sometimes it is just living the sheer tedium of illness and an unfulfilling job, but doing it well, doing it with praise and thanksgiving. This state underlies everything I do. I’m still a sickly, grumpy, intellectually arrogant, highly critical individual but I don’t care anymore. I’m not always feeling that close to God either; there are many ‘dark nights’, but they hold no fear, there are also few consolations, but that doesn’t matter anymore.

And yet in the midst of all this, I have found another love. There is one soul who has touched me so deeply. But, how to love? Everything is so different. The heights of love have been revealed as disinterested, self-sacrificing love. I can’t love for the sake of my future happiness or for companionship, they are strangely inadequate and 2 dimensional. I just pray continually that this person will grow in knowledge and love of God and find on earth that which he is looking for and that which will be of benefit in helping him get to heaven. It doesn’t sound romantic, I can’t do romance, but this cuts very deep, very deep indeed.


Joe said...

A beautiful post.

Anonymous said...

That was profound and wise. Thank you.

This seems a bit banal really but I have awarded you the versatile blogger award.
God bless and hold you.


Robert said...

Dear Rita,
I have found myself profoundly touched by your recollections here... Paul's death seems blessed, in no small part because of your presence, your faith and love. I think I completely understand when you write that you don't want to recover from an experience like that. I remember, many, many years ago, it was my dearest desire to be with someone close to me at the hour of his/her death, and be a part of that, of being some little help in the passage... Alas, that has not happened yet, may never. More often now, I think I hope to have someone like that with me when I die. Any way...

When I watch old movies like Song of Bernadette, I find myself envying religious who have such attendance at their deathbeds, dear friends praying with and for them, candles lit, the priest anointing.

I have no real image of you in my mind, (having no idea what you look like) but somehow, what you write of "waking up at strange hours totally elated and needing to recite some more Psalms" seems so real to me. And, even though I can sort of see what you mean from your posts, I have a hard time picturing you as "grumpy, intellectually arrogant, or highly critical." I feel as though I understand you when you write the sorts of things that some might label as grumpy, etc, but to me, it all seems perfectly justifiable and reasonable.

...And yet, in the midst of all this, you have found another love, a soul who has touched you so deeply. Your continual prayer for this person is such a loving prayer. I hope someday he, at least in heaven, (and on earth, if possible) will recognize you and thank you for your prayers, for the help they obtain.

People today don't understand disinterested, self-sacrificing love. It's so much about the feelings, the sense experience. They really miss out until some trial comes along to show them true love, or to reveal just how empty what they thought love was really is.

Disinterested love, once it gets into one's mind, can be easier to believe in than to practice. It can be so hard to do, but we have to pray. It's a Divine love, and it requires Divine help. Only God, really, can do it, and so we have to pray that we may allow Him the freedom to love in and though us.

I'm rambling. I am so touched by your post that I think I have to say a lot in response, but maybe the best response is to ponder in silence. And pray.

Rita, you are in my prayers. God bless you.

Rita said...

Thank you for your kind comments, all of you