A woman I know became sick a few months ago—suddenly. I learned about her illness through social media. Her family asked for prayers and said she was “gravely ill,” but it was not until they used the word “hospice” that I realized how gravely ill she was. In a matter of a few weeks, she went from posting pictures of her husband, children and grandchildren on social media—to dying.
Life is so fragile.
When death is near, what is happening in the rest of the world seems distant and unimportant. The passing of a loved one becomes the most important thing and offers great clarity about what really matters.
I try to remember those moments—the times when I had great clarity about what truly matters in life.These thoughts came back to me while reading the Gospel of Mark. I wonder if St. Mark had clarity as to what was really important, if he had a sense of urgency about spreading the story of Jesus’ life and message.
I thought of how God uses us to spread the Good News. Was Mark a writer? Or was he just compelled to write the story of Jesus? As I pondered Mark’s mission, I was reminded of some notes I received when my friend Jim was dying from brain cancer.
Several friends wrote to me during Jim’s illness reminding me that we were living the Paschal mystery—facing death and resurrection every day. It was true that we knew Jim would die soon and yet every day we found a way to laugh and every day we recited our litany of gratitude.
Jim was unable to read for most of the time he was sick, so I read his mail to him, and I also read any notes I received. One of the notes about the Paschal mystery sparked a conversation about the everyday deaths we faced.
Jim’s physical decline was an obvious death, but there were others that seemed as significant. We kept being faced with situations where we needed to let go so that we could truly live.
Holding on and letting go was part of our daily conversation.
At some point, I realized that it was not just at the time of one’s death, but that living the Paschal mystery was a continual invitation to see things in new ways, to look from different angles and to be open to change.As I reflected, the words to Unsteady by X Ambassadors, popped into my mind.
Hold on to me
‘Cause I’m a little unsteady
A little unsteady…If you love me, don’t let go.
Holding on can offer a sense of security and stability, but there’s always the question, What am I holding on to?
While our world may seem to be spiraling out of control, Christians are called to remain “steadfast in faith” (1 Peter 5:9), not caving in to popular culture or the “prowling Satan” but holding on to Jesus’ message of hope.