Friday, February 21, 2014

Severe Illness and Death

I had the honor of praying with three different families this week following the death of loved ones who had suffered from serious illnesses. In each case, while there was grief, there was also a sense of relief at the lack of pain and suffering their loved ones FINALLY were enjoying.

I also lost my mother almost three years ago following a serious illness, so I have personal experience with this hand-in-hand concept of relief-grief. I think is must be similar to a salve that a skilled doctor smears on a wound in order to help it heal. Sometimes the salve burns before it sooths. I believe serious illness sometimes sooths and acts like a salve for our grief. In fact, I think illness and death, taken in this context help each other.

What do I mean? When my mother was suffering from cancer, the pain of seeing her with no treatment possibilities was soothed by the death process as I knew she was finally comfortable. The pain I experienced in my mother’s death was soothed by knowing the illness had finally been healed. You might think one would have been easier without the other. But, in living the experience, I can say that each gave a deeper meaning to the other. Without the other, there would have only been pain without the soothing salve.

I think God gives us many gifts we don’t recognize in the midst of our pain and suffering. At the very least, serious illness allows us the opportunity to share the last days in love and peace, leaving nothing unsaid, while we say our goodbyes. It allows the chance for forgiveness and reconciliation. It allows us to see clearer than before, just how much God’s grace fills our lives. And all these soothe our aching hearts. For that, I am thankful.

Tomorrow is the Saturday of Souls, a day which the Church commemorates ALL the faithful who have died since the establishment of the Church. It is a day for us to remember, and pray for, our loved ones who are face-to-face with God praying for us. It is a day we can be soothed by God’s loving embrace.

May their memories be eternal.

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