I am bigger than anything that can happen to me. Sorrow and suffering, pain are outside the door. I am in the house, and I have the key.
- Charles Tumaris
I recently came across the above statement and I like it. It seems to me that so much of our anxiety in life is a vague thing concerned with our future. Will I be all right, many bad things could happen, what would I do? As I am in old age now, or at least on the threshold, these concerns multiply more than ever. And I am not so sure that I agree with the above statement, that all the bad things are outside and that I have the power to keep them there.
For that one needs more than a door and a key. Old age leads to death. And no one dies of good health. The bad things will get in the house. At that point, I need to believe in more than my fortress house. I need to believe in God; I need to believe in me.
I have incredible internal resources. I have seen these work again and again. Recently I lost a friend. He took his own life. I was sad, mad, disappointed, hurt, all the things that go with such a death. He had been faced with a difficult future, a future of huge personal changes and of not inconsiderable pain. As I look back to our talks, I can see now that he knew he did not have the internal strength to make it and, by comparison, I knew that I would have the resources to go on. He came from a terrible background and I did not. I had gifts that he simply did not have. I hope I am not excusing suicide.
We are told that God never gives us more than we can handle. I always think that whoever says that has never visited a Nazi death camp during World War II. I think, sometimes God gets pretty close to that line. But that is for God to judge. Nazi death camps and my friend are not typical.
We cannot sell ourselves short. We have resources from our family background and from a loving Father in heaven. If we cannot keep all the bad outside the house, we can let the bad things in and we can handle them; we being me, we being you and God
- Fr. James O'Leary
Grieving properly means that we do not let hurts have permanent power over us.
We misunderstand the process of grief. We speak about grief as if it were an occasional thing that pops up in our lives. When it does, then we must deal with it. Like a death. Actually, grieving is far more important and far more constant.
We are always grieving, because we are always suffering losses. The losses are not always unwanted. We move to a new city and a new job. We love the change. We are happy. But we have still suffered a loss. We have left friends behind. Or perhaps there was a cherry tree in our old back yard, and we miss it. Losses come in all shapes and sizes. They are always with us.
When we lose, we tend to get mad, maybe a little mad, maybe real mad. Look around you. We see angry people all around us. We have rage everywhere. The real victims of this anger are the angry people themselves. They are the ones in turmoil. If we are the angry ones, then we are in turmoil. We have no peace.
We must become good at grieving. It is the only way we cut our losses. Grieving is the way we let go of hurts and losses and move on in peace. We cannot let a hurt of the past ruin our peace of mind in the present.
- Fr. James O'Leary
Death has got a bad name. I am not talking about the process of death. If that has a bad rap, it is well earned. But death itself, that moment of crossing into eternity, is looked upon with dread. And why? We really do not know what it is like. Maybe we should be looking forward to it with longing.
I have been reading a book called “Final Gifts.” It was written by several Hospice nurses. It is a collection of their experiences with death, both the process of and the moment of. Their experience is abundant. They give a whole new understanding of death. They tend to take away fear. I think the book is a must for anyone seriously ill or a caretaker of a person who is.
It was not so long ago when denial was about the only recourse when faced with death. Death was always spoken of in the second or third person. You are going to die, he is going to die, never I am going to die. As an old man, the philosopher Saroyan said, “I have always known everyone dies, but I always thought they would make an exception in my case.” These nurses point out that death does not have to be denied. It is a part of life, a rich part. It does have its difficulties, but so does every part of life. Remember your first day in school? That was no walk in the park.
A very rich person is visited by friends and family who express their love as they never have before. Pain can be controlled. It may take some effort, but it can be done. The dying person knows that he is waiting for God. He is getting closer. At the moment of death, He is there, in the room. We who are present stand in awe. We will never get closer to God on earth than at that moment.
We do not need to deny death. Death is a part of life. And all of life is rich, even the last part.
- Fr. James O'Leary