I wrote a story about dying and coming before God. I was welcomed but warned I would not be happy. There would be so many regrets and as I looked back at life and understood I might have done so much more. Would I like to return and do that much more?
I was startled and humbled. I would need to live at a deeper level. I accepted with gratitude. Yes, I would like to go back and live more fully for God and others and would need to learn to give myself as well as give all that God had given me. Had I simply taken my duties as fully as I could but not with the love that God wanted those duties carried out?
July 2020 and my story became a reality. Suddenly I was very ill, my body seemed to be collapsing and three specialists were puzzled. I felt no pain, simply very weak, even helpless. I knew this could be the end, but all I felt was great gratitude for a wonderful life of 85 years. In the long slow hours of the hospital days and nights I told God how grateful I was for my life, family, friends, education, students, peoples of the parishes and conferences and retreats and mission experiences. God had given me so much and I could only feel grateful; but if my time had come I would love the favour of returning to St Joseph’s and dying there.
I did come home and remarkable healing began. Wonderfully looked after, confident that so many good people were willing to help (as always) in the various details of parish life, I watched the parish flourish, new friendships formed, new understanding develop and I was blessed. From July 2020 to 18th May 2021 I needed only phone consultations, was told my recovery was remarkable. I came back to celebrating mass six times each week and I felt I had been blessed by a little miracle.
18th May, 2021, all changed. My blood had revealed an extraordinary change and I had to come to hospital immediately – the myeloma, just traces in 2020, had exploded. I had cancer. Ten days I was there, quickly made a good enough recovery to come back home, grateful again and willingly agreeing to be part of a clinical trial. I could still serve and help in the parish.
Something went wrong. A bad sudden allergic reaction to the treatment. The ambulance was called. A terrible rash, a strange weakness and I was in again. Dear Lord, I said, what does it all mean? I told you I was ready to come. You seemed to call and then let me go home to continue. I don’t want to be a burden and I want to accept what you want. But what do you want?
God smiled. I was ready for the final understanding and it came on Wednesday 14th July. My hospital time was prayer (for all of you. You are all locked in my rosary – I only have to touch a bead and anyone from any part of my life, any part of the world, is there. I hold the world in my rosary – and then include you all in the priest’s daily prayer). I was watching the news – and I heard what God had been waiting for. I had to let everything become compassion – a suffering with everyone.
“You have finally understood,” said God. “That’s what I have wanted you to learn and at last you have understood. You must suffer with everyone who suffers, without judging. Politically, you could take sides in Syria, Yemen, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Myanmar, Venezuela, the Holy Land – but taking sides cuts you off from the others and in many of the world’s trouble spots there are many sides, many factions. You must belong to all of them, to everyone suffering: the victims and their terrified persecutors who see only kill or be killed as their choice. The unhappy, the frightened, the lonely, the willing to commit suicide because life seems hopeless. You must feel compassion for all and no exception.
“I, your God, love them all without exception. I see their fears. You can’t love them all but you can suffer with them all. If the two great ills of the world were resolved tomorrow – the Pandemic and Climate Change – all those other conflicts and hatreds and sufferings would still be there. When you have learned to know compassion – to suffer with, and with no exception – I shall finally call you. That’s why I have allowed you to live on. Be angry at injustice, be strong and firm and even stubborn about what is right and wrong, be comforting without being sentimental, be sympathetic with failings and failures, seek truth and support justice, admire the good in others and learn. All I want is that you give yourself as well as give all I have given you – with compassion. Will you?”
Will you, dear people. God bless us,
(18th July 2021)