It is a moment of reality for all of us of our generation, the grandchildren of Eugene "Big Red" and Ora.
This is an open letter to you all, and I write it in full conciousness of my God given gift as the first born of our generation. I hope that I don't offend you in the following paragraphs. It is not my intention to offend anyone but to support, encourage, enlighten, comfort, accompany and stand quietly by in my own state of awe, respect and meditation at the plan of God as it unfolds before us along the path to eternal glory.
There are but few of us who have had the challenge to accompany a loved one through long periods of suffering through the deterioration of health. The great majority of us have experienced the slap of sudden death snapping our hearts into a dark hole of emptiness. Some of us even pray for that same manner of departure for ourselves. I for one pray for that every day. I, more than most of you, have accompanied many people to their grave. I, more than most of you, have accompanied families and friends through the throes of watching loved ones spend what seemed to be endless time on the threshold between here and there. I have talked, preached and written much about death and dying. Very, very little of it to you.
Well, enjoy it, this is it. :-)
For those of you who don't know, I will tell you that I have lasted for 77.25 years so far. That sounds like George Carlin, doesn't it. Since this is the first time that I have been this old, I can't tell you if I feel my age or not. I can tell you that I know very well how I felt at 35. I also can tell you how I felt at 74. At 35 I was still kicking ass no matter how tall the adversary was. At 74 I spent 3 months in a wheel chair. Which is good because then no one could kick my ass. As it stands now, I can get kicked again but the only kicking I can do is with a sharp pencil. So now you know.
At the present, I have been visiting people whom I know who are really sick. I also got the news about David Dion, son of Alcide and Betty and the oldest brother of Deanna, who happens to be the first born of Al and Betty. David is one sweet guy and there he is, not really old according to 21st century standards, but really sick. Veronica his wife has been sick and seems to be a little better now. Then, down goes ol' David. So that got me to thinking about us Dions and the way we get to the Pearly Gates. I didn't look it up, but here's what I found off the top of my head:
Grace Dion married to DeGray
Jeanine Dion, my sister
Ora Dion, old age
Edward Dion, Alzheimer's, younger brother to Grace
Don Dion, the "Baby of the family"
"Hadjr" DeGray, still here, but suffering
Cecile Dion, complications after childbirth
Ray Dion, here today and gone today
Norma Dion, ditto
Al Dion, ditto
Elna DeGray, Murphy, Grace's daughter, here today and gone today
Melina Dion, my mother, ditto
Harley DeGray, ditto, Elna's father
Either way, someone suffers and so I just had to see what I had written about suffering in comparison with what I had written about death.
What I came up with was this, mainly:
I looked for that after I had written this to my sister Emélie (I always put the accent when I'm serious). Now, I write it to you.
"Thank you for the update. I appreciate the news. We continue to accompany him (David) and the family in our prayers. I pray that as a family we can hear the voice of God with hearts of loving unity during moments that can carry a lot of contradiction.
"Suffering is not just physical. At times like this it becomes clear to us that suffering is also an emotional community reality. It is at times like this when we either appreciate the truth that the suffering of Jesus, the Innocent one, is shared in the suffering of His human family, saints or sinners. When His suffering visits us that is the moment when we know that He meant it when He told us to pick up our cross and follow Him. (Matthew, 16;24) It is in moments of great suffering that we know that suffering is not a punishment for our weaknesses. It is an honor given to those whom God judges to have the courage to share in the Sacrifice of Jesus. It is a glorification of our faith that God uses to pair us with His only Son so that His suffering, lived by us, is our part in the Divine Sacrifice that He offered for the salvation of all. After all, the suffering is not ours to own. Like everything else, it is His. It is given to us to share for the eternal good of His people, in whom we are all included. I pray that we all have the Grace to walk to Calvary, heads and hearts held high filled with the courage to be able to say to those who weep, "Do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children." (Luke 23;28)
My personal prayer is that each and every one of us, God's children all, can accept our responsibility in the act of eternal salvation, not only our own but that of all God's family, from the closest to Him to the farthest from Him. At no time during our lives are we so involved in the work of God as when He calls upon us to suffer as His Son did, not for ourselves, but for the Communion of Saints.
I offer one final thought. Some of the sharpest, crushing, stretching, grinding and wringing suffering that we may be called upon to share with God will come at a time when we know, or think, that we are still far from death's door. When I thought I was going to die, suffering was assuaged by the thought that the end wasn't that far away. It was then that I thought of my sister Jeanine and my God-mother Grace who suffered for years. I thought of my father's chronic pain and the fact that he knew that it was not a life-threatening condition. I thought of many widows I have known who had to face life with young children and had no gainful source of income.
I presently think of people I know who have psychoses and/or neuroses to live with. In their calm and lucid moments, these souls have plenty of suffering, wondering if they will ever get to be "normal." I think of the mothers who kept offspring that came to them as a result of a violent act against them; I think of the families who have semi-formed children as a result of taking Thalidomide and I often think about a couple of very special families who are well known to and admired by me and the lives that lead.
Yes, you all, suffering is not easy, but it is also not intolerable to those who know where it comes from and where it leads. We all have our sheltering olive tree in the Garden of Gethsemane. We can hug that special tree and talk to God from there and thank Him for trusting us with the hardest of His missions - that of the Suffering Servant.
Yes, I pray that we all have the grace to live this calling with noble, faith driven courage.
From my High Horse ...
Used to be a pulpit ...
I had to run the course
When the pain really hit.
I learned a lot then
From the Book of Life.
I thought that I knew
Enough to get by.
I was shaken and taught
that my "enough" was aught
and that all I had to get by
was call to God to come nigh
since on my own
I was wracked to the bone
from inside and out
from the left to the right
I had nothing but gout
and no strength to fight.
It was then that I grew
Into the insight of WHY.
In me then was the Passion of Christ.
He and I had a long talk.
I learned then how light is my cross
Since the road that I walk
With Him as we talk,
Doesn't point to a loss.
And please, at my funeral there is no crying allowed!
And please, at my funeral there is no crying allowed!