Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Terminal Illness and the Sorrowful Mysteries

Today, while meditating on the Sorrowful Mysteries it hit me for the first time how similar these mysteries are to a person's walk with terminal illness.

The Agony in the Garden:

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Hearing one's diagnosis for the first time is just like the Agony in the Garden if we think about it.  The patient has an answer to their questions and concerns but the answer is cancer, or dementia, or any number of progressive terminal illnesses.  Immediately, they are thrown into the Garden of Gethsemane with Christ.  Together, they get on their knees (physically or metaphorically) and place themselves at the mercy of God the Father.  "My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not as I will, but as you will", Jesus and His new companion in suffering, pray in unison.  Their loved ones stand aside, like the apostles Peter, James and John, wondering what to do, how they can help.  More fervently the prayers stream from them, pleas for those they love, whom they will leave behind.

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The Scourging at the Pillar:
The treatment period can be likened to the Scourging at the Pillar, especially for those receiving treatments that make them physically or mentally ill.  Chemo and radiation sessions, hair loss, IVs, or maybe memory loss, hostility and fear, moments of lucidity among the confusion, are all the moments when the Suffering are being scourged at their own pillars.  With each "blow", each treatment, each moment of debilitation, they feel themselves being ripped apart, no longer their whole selves, their old selves.  And their loved ones, who have to watch the sufferer drift farther and farther away from the person they knew and loved, take the place of the Blessed Virgin, knowing what has happening to her son, without any power to stop it.

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The Crowning of Thorns:
I see the crowning of thorns in every moment a decision needs to be made by the sufferer or the family members preceding their future passing.  How do we set up in-home care?  Ouch, a thorn.  Can we get extra help with the kids after school?  Ouch, thorn.  Am I leaving my family with enough...money, resources, memories of me? Thorn. Thorn. Thorn.  How will I say goodbye when the time comes? Thorn.  In each of these moments, in each of these decisions there is that terrible suffering.  And yet, if we unite it with Christ's suffering, can me make it sweet as well?  Several who have gone before us, have shown us we can.  Was not Jesus' suffering for us, so great and terrible as it was, a sweet balm for Him as well knowing His suffering will save the souls who choose Him, who love Him, who follow Him, and who trust in Him?

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The Carrying of the Cross:
Here is where it really gets difficult.  The time the sufferer knows the end is near.  The time they are taking their walk to the end of their earthly life.  Carrying, dragging, or barely able to hold on to their cross as they struggle down that dusty lonely road.  Like our Lord, they fall, they get up again.  They meet our Lady, the Blessed Mother.  They look the crying women, men and children of their family members and friends in the eye and bravely say as our Lord did, don't cry for me, don't be sad.  They know their time is drawing near and they are exhausted from the fight.  But there is something looming ahead.  Something that to many seem dreadful, yet to the believer, the lover of Christ, seems almost beautiful; certainly bitter sweet.

The Crucifixion:

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The sufferer, along with Christ, has come to their Calvary and they are ready.  They are ready to hang on their cross and take their last breaths.  They say their goodbyes to their loved ones either verbally or through their heart and they breathe their last.  Looking upon them at the foot of their cross are their loved ones in union with the Blessed Mother, St. John and St. Mary Magdalene.  This is the time of mourning for those left behind.  Great mourning.

BUT, if those of us left behind, remember what happens on that third day, if we recall the great excitement of the Resurrection, this moment of mourning can indeed be turned into dancing!  Death is not the end but a new beginning!

I know it's not a very uplifting post nor it is meant to be flippant.  It's simply what came to my mind today while meditating on the Sorrowful Mysteries after hearing about someone's recent passing.

I guess, there is something to be said for those who experience their own Passion here on earth.  It is said that St. Peter felt he was not worthy to die as Christ did so he requested to be crucified upside down. There is something to be said for those who seem to be chosen, in a way, to suffer as our Lord did, to be united as one with our Savior.  Something very great indeed.