Giuseppe Maria Crespi, Extreme Unction
A friendly acquaintance of mine died yesterday of cancer. He was diagnosed with brain cancer in June and died yesterday; in my experience, a swift cancer death. I visited him for the last time on Sunday in a hospice in Brooklyn. All the years that I knew him, he was a fairly robust looking man. When I saw him on Sunday, he was shrunken down to barely 100 pounds. He was almost blind. Even with a continuous morphine drip, he was in so much pain that he could hardly bear to be touched. I was told that 2 weeks before he was able to walk and join friends for lunch at a diner near the hospice. He deteriorated very fast. I'm reasonably sure that he greeted his end as a relief.
I've visited dying friends and family many times before, but each experience is always deeply painful. Dying is so horrible.
Mercifully, he died in the company of many old friends who visited him faithfully through the whole duration of his illness. One of his oldest friends took on the responsibility of caring for him, spending 8 to 10 hours daily at the hospice with him. I give credit to my parish priests who visited him daily while he was in the hospice, as he had requested. Not every church would do that for a parishoner. Not every church has the resources for that kind of care.
And then there is the case of Jacob Rogers in Tennessee another teen who killed himself after constant bullying because he was perceived to be gay. His parents are so poor that they could not afford to bury him.
Within 2 hours, the readers of JoeMyGod and 2 other blogs raised $5000 to pay for his funeral.
While my friend died an untimely death among old friends, Jacob Rogers died his untimely death in a terrible solitude.
Dying is so horrible.
And in the face of it, all we have is the love of family and friends, seen and unseen, and for many of us, a hope -- and only a hope, not a certainty -- that dying is not the end of the whole story, that old things shall be made new again.