Please accept my heartfelt thanks to all of you who have left comments or emails of condolences on the passing of my brother John. I have been immensely touched by the prayers, the very kind and thoughtful messages – even by one person painting a nativity set and dedicating St. Joseph – patron of the dying – to John’s memory. I have been exceedingly moved by so much generosity of spirit, and pray God blesses all of you, especially in this season of hope.
Someone wrote, “Anchoress, this is the third time I am offering condolences on the loss of a brother – how many do you have?”
I hadn’t thought of it but the writer is correct. Since 2005 I have lost three brothers, or brothers-in-law. And I have lost two of them in Advent, in this joyous season of preparation and hope.
In truth, I have lost 4 in 6 years. I started off with 8, and have lost four through completely different circumstances, O through a quick, aggressive cancer, D through a life-long illness, S through AIDS and now, poor John whose heart just grew too weak. Their deaths have all be very different experiences. With S there was the day-to-day involvement and the hands-on caregiving. With O, so little time for much of anything beyond bedside visits. D was tragic because 35 of his 50 years had been in need of facility, and John’s passing was so distant and sad.
Each death comes with its own quite different experience of grief, and you learn something new in that grief. Some grief is tinged with shock, because it came so quickly, with John there is regret for his sake and for my own and for the sake of other siblings who rejected him. With D there was grief, but it was tinged with relief that he was finally once more as God created him. With S, of course, there was deep grief – I still miss him so much – but there was enormous consolation in having been able to be so intimately involved with his last few months, and finally, a sense of joy, because we’d been given a glimpse of the mystery and love that is so thickly of a piece, enmeshed, between heaven and earth.
I called S’s death A Rough Beast in Advent. I think John would have liked the idea of slouching toward Bethlehem.
Me, I’m still thinking about my Viking funeral.
On his radio program, “Personally Speaking with Msgr. Jim Lisante”, Fr. Lisante and I talked about dying and Catholicism, (scroll down to program #129) and in the course of conversation, the cultural things came up – how on news of a death the Irish will say “sorry for your trouble,” and the Italians will say, “condole, condole…” Those little sayings convey a great depth of feeling and they do bring comfort. Your emails and comments have been a balm. Thank you.