Facing death and the gift of life
By guest blogger Kathleen Hockey
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear.” Matt 6:25a
I have just spent a little over a week waiting for the results of medical tests that would have determined whether or not my life would be shortened by about thirty years, give or take ten. The cancer they were testing for has a very poor survival rate, two to five years at best regardless of treatment. It was the first time in my life I actually physically trembled.
The week of waiting found me putting off the work necessary to get my new business off the ground. It found me sitting at a team meeting at my other job feeling as if I was outside a glass wall looking in. They were concerned about things that were suddenly not important to me anymore. One thing positive I can say is that my house is spotless, the laundry is done, the bills are paid, and the refrigerator is full of food. Those tasks kept my mind from ruminating and in a twisted sense, made me feel everything would be done in case surgery became imminent. I had control over something.
Even though it was quite premature, the week also had me thinking about how I’ve lived my life so far. What were my regrets and what would I have wished I had done? What surprised me was that I honestly wouldn’t have done much differently and there were only two things I regretted. The first was spending an inordinate amount of energy worrying about finances. The second was spending so much of my time resenting the twist of fate that made finances a chronic problem in the first place. How can you come up with a plan to work around financial problems if you spend most of your time and energy worrying and resenting. Besides that, how can you enjoy the little blessed moments right in front of you? How can you enjoy life at all?
We believe that heaven waits for those who believe but that does not ease the pain of facing death and the losses that go along with it. It also doesn’t keep you from being concerned how your death would affect those you love, especially if those you love include children under eighteen. Yet even Jesus was concerned about such things as he begged for His cup to be taken away while praying in the Garden of Gethsemane.
My Gethsemane cry was followed by a different outcome. I did not have to bear the cross. My tests came back negative.
I have been given a great blessing, the revelation that “life is more important than food, and the body more important than clothes.” (Matt 6:25b) I feel like Ebenezer Scrooge after his nightmare.
After I cried out all the deeply private stress that had built up from the week of waiting I took my jar of coins and had it converted to dollar bills. I then put the money in an envelope for the St. Vincent de Paul collection at our church. After that, I watched a hockey game on TV with my husband and two sons, one of which had come home from college for the evening because he missed us. It was one of those blessed moments of life to enjoy.
Kathleen P. Hockey is a clinical social worker, author, and speaker from Albuquerque. Her interest is in helping Catholics who are struggling with depression. Her blog is at www.depressedandcatholic.com.
Guest blog posts express the views of the author. They do not necessarily reflect the views of U.S. Catholic, its editors, or the Claretians.