Friday, July 17, 2009

Novena Day Eight: Bury the Dead (July 17th)

This may sound macabre, but I am quite accustomed to death. I am faced with death on many levels, both professionally and spiritually, and minister to those dying in my role as nurse and missionary. That doesn't make it less painful, nor does it reduce the ache of grief and sorrow; but I have come to accept that our death is as much a part of who we are as any stage in life.

Most folks do NOT talk about death, and if, for some reason, it is an absolute necessity, it is done in hushed tones and with obtuse language. For many, it is just too frightening. As a society, we have not done well to prepare one another. It is not a part of the fabric of our culture; illness, age and decline are seen as signs of weakness and are to be avoided.

As one who experiences the initial grief of death in the Emergency department, I have come to believe that we are actually moving even further from the reality of our mortal death with each passing generation. There is far too much expectation on the medical arts to prevent what we cannot accept as inevitable. Initial grief is becoming traumatic, even violent, at alarming rates. The smashing of walls, breaking of furniture, and violent outbursts are becoming the norm rather than the exception. There are times I must remove staff members for their own protection. It is obvious by this behavior that we are not prepared, generally speaking, as a people to assist one another on the journey to our mortal death and eternal life.

Can preparation make it any easier? In a sense, yes and no. Will a realization that we must, at some time, die to our bodies to rise to eternal life help us to have a healthy understanding of ourselves and those we love? Surely. Can this help us to be open to the prompting of the Holy Spirit as we prepare for what most certainly will come? Indeed. Will honest reflection help us to minister to those experiencing grief and suffering after the death of a loved one? Certainly. Will it take away any pain we may experience when death touches our lives? Well, no. We will grieve. We will cry out in pain. We will feel the nearly crippling ache of loss. If one has a heart, it can't be avoided; but the difference maker is one little four-letter word: HOPE.

Our hope is in the Lord who made Heaven and earth. Our hope is in the Lamb who was slain for our sins, that we may live forever. Our hope is in the Divine Mercy of our God, who gave us His only Son so that everyone who believes in Him might not perish but might have eternal life. Without hope we are lost, without hope our life has no meaning, death has no purpose. This is what our society is missing. The word "hope" has been abused as of late by politicians. That hope is sold as a means of making our own heaven on earth. Unless our hope is based on the reality of God's existence, His abiding and unconditional love for us, and His desire to share eternity with us we will never achieve peace.

St. Camillus, you were at the bedside of countless men and women as they were called home to God. Pray for us that we may be a comfort to one another when death touches us. Pray that we may better prepare for our own death by growing closer to the God who loves us and desires us to be with Him forever. We ask all this in the name of the Merciful Jesus. Amen.

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