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Grace in the Face of Death

As faithful readers of this blog know, I am a great admirer of the virtue of courage.  Nowhere does this virtue shine brighter than when someone meets death with grace and hope:

 

Dave Griffey at Daffey Thoughts gives us a current example of this grace:

Last week was a bad week for celebrities.  The suicides of Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade shed light on a problem that has been well known, if not overly covered, for several years now.  Suicides have been growing fast in the US, and continue to increase.  And it’s not just in the United States either.  Countries around the world, in and out of Europe, are seeing increases in suicide.  It’s almost like the same factors that have brought the new phenomenon of mass killings might somehow be linked to suicide.  It’s almost as if something in the last half century or so isn’t working.

I know, I know.  Suicides have always happened, are complex, and can impact those in and out of religious circles.  But here’s the thing.  We can appeal to past suicide rates all we want.  Never in human history has there been such an emphasis on psychological and emotional well being as now; never has there been so many safeguards erected for the sole purpose of preventing such mental spirals as that which could lead to suicide.  And yet, once again, we’re seeing that after tearing down almost everything the old world said was right and wrong, good and bad, we’re left at best with problems as bad as they ever were.  In some cases, we could argue they are worse.

I’ll leave others to scramble for a cause.  Suffice to say I’ll listen to materialists insist it’s all physical, and Christians and other religious individuals look to spiritual causes.  I will not listen at all to Christians, no matter how trained in mental health, act as if they never heard of God or the Holy Spirit, it must all be a matter of chemicals or biological deficiencies.  Nope.  Not going to go there.

As if the suicide news wasn’t enough, Charles Krauthammer announced that he has weeks to live, owing to a terminal case of cancer.  He has been Nazi and Commie to so many who themselves have a history of being disastrously wrong, I can’t help but think he brought something of value to our national discourse.  Unlike the previous two celebrities I mentioned, however, Mr. Krauthammer chose to endure.  Despite receiving a life altering injury that left him crippled for good, he persevered and chose life.  And like Lou Gehrig before him, he departs this earthly stage with grace and class, not self pity or resentment – at least none he has shown.

I don’t know.  Perhaps it’s a matter of perception, of attitude, of the way in which we look at life and the world around us.  I became a Christian almost 30 years ago, and in that time, Christians sound more like the world of agnosticism I left than the world of agnosticism sounds like any traditional manifestation of Christianity.  Yet there are still those who hearken back to a world in which our place is within it, not above it; an age when we had jobs to do and duty to ideals higher than ourselves.  Not a world in which the only reason God decided to exist in the first place was to create a universe centered around the awesomeness of me getting whatever I want, as soon as I want, with whomever I want, as often as I want, free of charge and if things go wrong it’s everyone else’s fault.

A clash of world views I suppose.  I get what I want, others be damned, or I don’t always get what I want, because I have other things to consider. Who knows?  Perhaps that ‘me’ focused approach isn’t something new, nor is the idea that we owe to others above ourselves.  And you never know.  Perhaps looking at the history of those differences could reveal something when considering suicide through the ages.  I dunno, just thinking out loud.

But prayers for the loved ones left behind.  I will not celebrate or make martyrs of those who killed themselves and left their loved ones behind to agonize for the rest of their lives.  Early on I was told that suicide is the most selfish of all sins, and I’ll keep that.  Nonetheless, I do pray for their souls and their loved ones who must shoulder the burden they were given.  I will pray for all who take their own lives, as well as their loved ones, in that manner.

I will also pray for, and give thanks for, those who through no fault of their own are smitten with ill fortune and decide to make all of the gift of life they can, thinking of their contributions to the world, of their loved ones, and all who know and care for them. May God bless them and give them the strength they need to die well, and shower blessings and grace upon those who benefit from their example.

Go here to comment.  We bring nothing into this Vale of Tears but ourselves, and we take nothing out.  However, each of us leaves behind an example of how we lived our lives, and for many of us what will be most remembered is how we meet our own death.  May we all meet it with grace and courage, as Christ did.  Before the battle of Lepanto the priests of the Christian fleet preached sermons on the theme of no Heaven for cowards.  Christians are meant to be brave, and must be brave, something we have lost sight of over the past half century.

 

Cowards die many times before their deaths;
The valiant never taste of death but once.

William Shakespeare

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Donald R. McClarey

Cradle Catholic. Active in the pro-life movement since 1973. Father of three and happily married for 35 years. Small town lawyer and amateur historian. Former president of the board of directors of the local crisis pregnancy center for a decade.

14 Comments

  1. Compline, the night prayer of the Church, ends with the blessing that says, “May the all-powerful Lord grant is a restful night and a peaceful death.” It doesn’t say painless, but peaceful. If there is one thing I have learned in this life is that peace is often anything but painless.

  2. The death penalty is not prohibited by the Catholic Church. Mr. Charles Krauthammer, whom I greatly respect, is not correct on this issue. Capital punishment for homicide in the first degree is necessary to protect the people from a cold-blooded killer.
    The death penalty is the temporal punishment for homicide in the first degree. It is the executed through the power of attorney of the condemned murderer.
    If the condemned murderer were truly contrite he would have expired with grief over the commission of so great a sin, (as Dutch Schultz did on his death bed.). A living murderer is not contrite and people are in jeopardy of life, the warden, the guards, the doctors and the contractors in the prison. See: Robert Pruitt who murdered his prison guard while on death row. Self-defense is an innate human right. To defend one’s neighbor is a act of love.

  3. Over at According to Hoyt, she did a post on this yesterday– a lot of people have been mauled by the black dog.

    I’m pretty sure that the public encouragement of suicide as an option, with the not-at-all-subtle messages from various bullies about how those who are in their way are not worthy of life, that there are too many people and our mere existence is horrible….

    Yeah. No shock that suicides are up, enough that it is unlikely to be just more willing to declare that the cause was suicide, especially when “medically aided” suicide isn’t put into the stats.

  4. Foxfier, so true. I shudder. Medically assisted suicides are our slippery slope. Most that request it are depressed, and God have mercy on those doctors souls. I suffer from depression, and if it weren’t for the Grace and Love of God who is always by my side I don’t think I could carry the burden some days. Just pray for those who took their own lives and didn’t know God.

  5. Warning: Be careful about supporting “palliative care” for people the medical profession — doctors – are prescribing mostly for the elderly with medical conditions that may not be able to be cured. Basically, it removes all medical services to the patient except food. And it disregards the patience wishes for medical care when he/she is unable to communicate those wishes. The Catholic Church, in the U.S. seems to be going along with this new concept that many Catholic doctors are supporting and promoting. It’s purpose is to bring about death sooner. It is medically induced “suicide.”

  6. STILBELIEVE, Your comment is a good reminder to have a signed document for end of life issues. Priests For Life have the forms. I haven’t seen the Arlington VA diocese forms. Senior residences, skilled nursing facilities and hospitals, in my and my brother’s experience with my mother, really push hard for a Do Not Resuscitate if one is elderly. It pays to read the fine print of what a DNR is. Many doctors believe in euthanasia, although the word isn’t used as you pointed out.

  7. Fortitude, a form of courage, is a cardinal virtue and gift of the Holy Spirit that is strengthened in us at Confirmation.
    As to suicide our materialistic and secular society creates unrealistic expectations. Legalized abortion, euthanasia, and assisted suicide have diminished the value of life.

  8. I’m in my eighteenth year supporting families and helping their loved ones while they naturally prepare to depart from earth. They, the elderly soul, leads us. They begin to shut down. They stop eating or drinking and palliative care is not a forced level of extermination.
    Palliative care is a transition care for our residents. They have entered through a threshold that is natural. In our home we believe that the resident leads us.
    I feel sorry for folks that have had anything less than dignity at this stage in life.
    Some providers could force a transition, however in my years of experience I haven’t witnessed any acts of euthanasia. Palliative care is not to be feared unless you have an unusual set of circumstances. Hateful family. Deranged physician and demonic staff bent on killing others.

    Stilbelieve. I don’t know your experiences. I’m sorry if you have had a terrible experience with the end of a loved ones life. This era has had medical technicians that have deliberately overdosed residents or withheld medications.
    I would never assume that your experience was without heartbreak. If you did witness a fraudulent activity please call on your local ombudsman. The only way we can provide dignity for the final departure of a loved one is if we have consistently in all levels of care. Our home is staffed with compassionate care givers and medical technicians that see their clients as extended family. Seriously. We love them. We are their “step-sons and daughters.”
    Keeping the resident comfortable is not a crime. Having the resident experience excruciating pain and discomfort while their organs shut down is
    an act of negligence on behalf of the staff and family physician’s.
    I would recommend the vocation of caregiver for anyone. Our elderly need middle age caregivers and the twenty somethings need to see that love of neighbor is not a job. It’s a calling. Praying for our elderly neighbors, making them laugh and listening to their stories is a great gift helping them and the new health care practitioner.

  9. We had two grandfathers that went with real palliative care– they stopped treating their cancer.
    Seeing it conflated by activists with warehousing people and, in cases I’m familiar with, not even treating basic infections— that is infuriating.

  10. Foxfier.
    I’m sorry you couldn’t help keep your grandfathers home. I’m sorry that the negligence of the “warehouse” didn’t treat them as human beings.
    When I hear about these inhumane practices my heart hurts. Some folks treat their pets better than their aging parents.

    As a grandchild, were you an adolescent when your grandfathers we’re aged? I’m only asking because I wonder what road you took in trying to get them the hell out of there. Not judging you by any means. I just know from experience that there are so many family dynamics that happen as a loved one in their final stages. Sometimes it’s as if the POA of the grandparent is the least suitable for the job.

    btw… this is very personal so please excuse my inquiry. Horror stories exist in the geriatric arena and I am sincerely sorry for your realitives treatment. God help our infirm. God send your saints to assist your treasured children as they prepare to see you clearly.

  11. Philip-
    thankfully, our grandfathers weren’t among the ones shoved in a warehouse; they actually effectively died at home– cancer– doing the last few things they felt the need to do; mine stayed around long enough to see the birth of the baby who’d been found out about the day he was diagnosed as terminal, and my husband’s refused to die until he’d filed his taxes, because anybody else would just mess it up. My husband’s other grandfather was almost one of the warehoused, but his wife is a first-rate rager and much younger than he was, so when they tried to baffle her with ***** when she found the untreated bed-sores she switched him to a different care facility, where he improved greatly, before any infection spread. Not enough to go home, but enough that he was relatively alert and HAPPY for his last several months. My other was killed by malicious malpractice. Mine when I was little, his after we were married. His grandmothers are still around, mine…well, I was in the Navy, I don’t know about the one who needed help, and the other any neglect was family. She lived less than three miles from half her offspring, and ugh, family politics.

    But my parents are getting older, and mom has been in bad health for years, so it’s definitely on my mind. One of the things I don’t like about Texas is their laws have way too much trust of medical professionals.

    Poor Stan Lee seems to have managed to dodge a bullet with his former manager and the “care professionals” that guy selected– short version, tried to drag that elderly man, who just lost his wife of many years, into the “me too” mess, while alienating the man’s only child, his daughter. But they jumped too soon, he’s sick not brain-addled, and last I heard the manager had vanished with the home-care gal making accusations. (Very messy setup, but he was hurrying so much to manipulate the guy that he violated basic rules about how many people would be involved in some of the claimed situations.)

    And not even going into poor Charley’s case….

  12. Foxfier.

    Thank you for sharing your story. I got a chuckle from your husband’s grandfather and taxes. You are so aware of the pitfalls of senior care that you shouldn’t worry about your mom. You will lead her into a safe and caring environment if that is needed. My prayers today are for your family. Rosary on way. Family politics can be heartbreaking. I witness many a sticky situation and softly offer suggestions when members are “not listening” to the wishes of the parent. Sometimes it is the child who is fighting the harsh reality of the situation at hand and has formulated conclusions that are less than realistic. Always prayer! Turning hearts and minds is not easy yet praying for help to do the above task usually works. He is an awesome God.
    May your folks have God’s assistance if they need professional care in a Assisted Living Ctr. or nursing home. Peace dear soul.

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