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 As the emphysema dramatically took over, Uncle D became more defiant, more withdrawn and grabbed on to his bad habits with a rabid hunger.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.
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