12 June 2008

In His image

My husband's uncle is dying. He's been dying of emphysema for the past few years.

We used to be very close to this aunt and uncle, but now I'm not quite sure what to say. Uncle D used to be vibrant and animated, easy to get along with, always having a good time and usually ranting about how the government or his current employer were crooks. And, he smoked a cigarette, a long succession of cigarettes, all day long. Even when all of his boomer friends gave up the habit, even when the state outlawed smoking in bars and restaurants, Uncle D was angrily defiant. No one was going to tell him not to smoke. He would show them.

After my father died of cancer, twelve years after my mother died of cancer, both pre-mature deaths undoubtedly impacted by their smoking, and we no longer allowed smoking in the house, Uncle D refused to visit. Our close relationship deteriorated.

All of Uncle D's relationships deteriorated. As the emphysema dramatically took over, Uncle D became more defiant, more withdrawn and grabbed on to his bad habits with a rabid hunger. His marriage and family life suffered as he started to drink more and more to take his mind of his disease. Pretty soon, Uncle D was staying up all night watching TV, smoking and drinking, and sleeping until the afternoon. Repeated interventions didn't change him, pleas and tears made him grab for his whisky as soon as his feet hit the floor upon waking.

Uncle D exists in a hell of his own device. Those who love him have given up trying and retreated from him to protect themselves from further hurt. Life goes on around him, but it no longer touches him. I wondered what my family would do in this situation. My mother's side that is. I'm sure there would be constant prayers. My Aunt Mary alone would storm the heavens. Even if Uncle D wasn't willing or wasn't able to help himself, the family would let him see Christ within them.

Clearly, without a belief system, the situation is exacerbated by those who don't get around to asking themselves, "Why are we here."

God created us in His image. Life is good. God Himself was pleased by His creation and saw its inherent beauty and dignity. We are mere stewards of His creation and should recognize that life should be preserved, nurtured and respected.

Suffering has no value and makes little sense if you don't have faith. Uncle D is scared and angry and doesn't know how to deal with these feelings, even he has admitted this, so he drinks throughout all his waking hours instead of seeing he could offer up his suffering. Uncle D's relationship with God, which is a higher good, is being lost, even more important than the physical life he is losing.

Those around him are caught up in their own interpretation of Al-alon. If Uncle D won't help himself and they can't change him, then they concentrate on their own self-preservation and don't see there is more they could do for Uncle D. This tragic stand-off will just result in hurt feelings, regrets and anger. Uncle D's bad example will have ramifications in his immediate family and will also impact others.

I've never been one who says a lot of novenas. My aunt says them all the time. She's always saying a novena for someone's intentions. I think I'll follow her example and say one for Uncle D. Hopefully, this time of hardship will open his eyes.


Sanctus Belle said...

A novena is a most excellent idea. May I suggest the novena to the Infant of Prague? I'd also suggest a double novena also the Our Lady of Mount Carmel and entrust his salvation to her intercession. Pray for all the graces needed for a perfect contrition prior to his death - this may in fact save his soul. Offer his salvation as a request at the feet of our Lady as you pray the rosary. Say the Divine Mercy Chaplet also for this intention. Graces from these prayers can descend upon his poor soul as he approaches death and help him to turn to the Lord's mercy rather than the door of His justice.

Also have masses said for his conversion and salvation - these can be done quickly by the good priests at the Seraphic Mass association.

May Mary's prayers be with your uncle. Amen+

swissmiss said...

THANK YOU Sanctus Belle!! I was spinning my wheels a bit looking for the right novena. Great suggestions. I'm off and running!

I often use the Seraphic Mass association. When my father passed, I had Gregorian Masses said for him and have also had them said for others. So sad that an illness can tear a family apart instead of bring them together. People react unexpectedly sometimes when confronted by crisis. When the situation deteriorates so, the "only" thing left to do is pray.

Ray from MN said...

Novenas are wonderful. And so is the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, and its promises:

At three o'clock, implore My mercy, especially for sinners; and, if only for a brief moment, immerse yourself in My Passion, particularly in My abandonment at the moment of agony. This is the hour of great mercy ... In this hour I will refuse nothing to the soul that makes a request of Me in virtue of My Passion. (Diary 1320).

As often as you hear the clock strike the third hour immerse yourself completely in My mercy, adoring and glorifying it, invoke it's omnipotence for the whole world, and particularly for poor sinners, for at that moment mercy was opened wide for every soul. In this hour you can obtain everything for yourself and for others for the asking; it was the hour of grace for the whole world - mercy triumphed over justice. . . .

Try your best to make the Stations of the Cross in this hour, provided that your duties permit it; and if you are not able to make the Stations of the Cross, then at least step into the chapel for a moment and adore, in the Most Blessed Sacrament. My Heart, which is full of mercy: and should you be unable to step into chapel, immerse yourself in prayer there where you happen to be, if only for a very brief instant. (Diary 1572)

I volunteer at a hospital, visiting patients, some near death. I don't have time to say a complete chaplet with patients.

Trusting on the promises of Jesus to St. Faustina, I just say the following, once.

ETERNAL FATHER, I offer You the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity
of Your dearly beloved Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, in atonement for oursins and those of the whole world.

FOR THE SAKE of His sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on thewhole world.

HOLY GOD, Holy Mighty One, Holy Immortal One, have mercy on us and
on the whole world.

Jesus, I trust in You.

Anonymous said...

I will pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet.

Anonymous said...

BTW, I was interested in that interpretation of the Al-Anon thing. I too recently saw someone interpret this in the same way. She became shockingly self absorbed and quite cruel really. Fortunately I think she may be slowly realising that is NOT the way to handle things.

God bless

Kit Brookside said...

Much better suggestions than I had off the cuff, but be sure to include prayers to St. Joseph in there, too, for a happy death. I did this for my grandma for nearly a year before she died (a smoker for over 75 of her 90 years...or she'd've been with us for another decade!). Her greatest fear, she told me, was not dying, but HOW she would die. It was not an easy death (pneumonia), but she did not suffer and we believe she was napping at the time. I'll pray for Uncle D at my long-overdue hly hour this weekend.

Anonymous said...

Tomorrow at 3pm, I'll be praying a Divine Mercy for him.

swissmiss said...

Thank you, everyone...even those of you who didn't comment but I know are praying. Thank you very much. May God reward you all for your thoughtfulness and kindness.

Anonymous said...

I will pray for your Uncle D. and ask for prayers at the Medjugorje Website. Our Blessed Mother tells us that we have a vocation to pray for others, especially for the unbelievers. As you said, your Uncle has created his own hell but he is stuck there and he is exactly the one who Jesus came to save. God bless your whole family.