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Tuesday, December 02, 2008

When We Have Shuffled Off This Mortal Coil

Several years ago, I had a boyfriend who firmly believed he would not live past the age of 45. He was very matter-of-fact about this belief, basing it on his family history; neither his grandfather nor his father lived longer than that age. He may have lost other male relatives in their 40's as well, from heart disease or other things. It seemed a fatalistic attitude to me, for even though I wasn't practicing my faith, I did still believe in God and knew that our ends (as well as our beginnings!) were completely dependent upon Him. While I understood my boyfriend's attitude, I didn't understand how he could be so resigned to the idea.

If I'd had such certainty, I thought, my life would be different.

Now, years later, it IS greatly different, and oddly, I'm getting the same sense as that old boyfriend.

I have this sense that I'm not meant to live to old age. It's an odd feeling, on one hand seeming quite fatalistic, but on the other hand, there's a certain hope. And yet...terror. Because my life is not in order. I've long felt "out of place" on this earth, and I've written of this many times, now knowing that it is a true sense, for we are all pilgrims, and this is NOT our home.

So it is natural, as we come to know and love God more, we want to be with Him, and not trudging along in this fallen world. The constant battle wears on us all.

I do think this sense that I'm not long for this world is just another part of this "pilgrimage" on earth, and perhaps will help me to work harder to erase those obstacles in my life that keep me from God. We will all be called to account, we know not the day or the hour, and it's never too early to work on holiness.

I have no way of knowing if this eerie sense of "impending doom" is just a passing phase to jumpstart my Advent penance, or if in fact, I'll be heading Home sooner than expected.

Life is such a gift, and while I recognize that more and more, I'm also finding myself desiring to reach the end for the even greater treasure of eternal union with God.

Advent is truly a time to look at our lives, to recognize that God can call us at any time. It is a time of watching and waiting, knowing Our Lord is coming, remembering His birth at Bethelehem, but looking forward to seeing Him again.

Ultimately the question that should define this time of year is this: Will we be ready when He comes?



Mark said...

This reminds me of St Paul's dilemma in Philippians 1:21-25.

"For to me life is Christ, and death is gain. If I go on living in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. And I do not know which I shall choose. I am caught between the two. I long to depart this life and be with Christ, (for) that is far better. Yet that I remain (in) the flesh is more necessary for your benefit. And this I know with confidence, that I shall remain and continue in the service of all of you for your progress and joy in the faith."

In your own case, I think you're such a gifted spiritual writer that God probably has work for you to do for many years to come.

Deacon Bill Burns said...

I think what you're experiencing is typical. We all come to a point where we not on recognize but accept our mortality. The recognition launches us into a period of grieving in a sense. You mentioned that you tried to densitize yourself during your LE training to the images you'd likely face. I recall doing the same sort of thing. Not everyone takes it to that extreme, but many go through this "dark" phase.

I remember reading in some Joseph Campbell book (Primitive Mythology?) that Norseman of a certain age used to enter into a phae referred to as the "time of ash," in which they would often isolate themselves in the communal houses and sit in the ash pits. It was a normal part of their maturation into warriorhood. At some point, they snap out of it and move on. They accept the reality of their mortal lives and get on with living.

Terry Nelson said...

I had thoughts like that too - I'm still here. It is probably just a mild panic attack. Only the good die young.

Melody K said...

As Thomas a Kempis said, "Here we have no place of long abiding; wherever we are come, we are but strangers and pilgrims."
My mother-in-law is 93 today. She often says that she doesn't know where the time has gone; that it wasn't that long ago that she was young. It reminds me that the longest life is short compared to eternity.
Terry, what you said is certainly true in my case; I can't die young (or good) anymore!

Agellius said...

When I was a teenager I was convinced that I would not live past 20. I took it for granted and lived my life accordingly. What that means, basically, is that I made no provision for the future: no preparations for attending college, or planning a career. In fact I had no desire to live past 20, as life seemed too pointless for anyone to want to suffer through it much longer than that.

Needless to say, this was before my "re-version". Now of course I wish I had prepared for the future, because the future has arrived and I'm finding myself ill-prepared. Nevertheless I'm loving life now, and finding it far from pointless, very much worth suffering through.

This is not meant as a comment on what you said, I just thought it was interesting that I too had had that kind of a "premonition" about not living past a certain age. I hope yours is as false as mine was. Then again I'm rather impatient to get to heaven, so I can see it from that angle too.

Nancy said...

I've had this same feeling for many years. My father died at 47 and I'll be 44 next month...was diagnosed with breast cancer in July of this year.....I've just never been able to see myself into old age. Since my diagnosis...I have become more comfortable with the whole thing...I guess it's the surrender that I'm not in charge anyway...never have been...God is. Anyway...don't dwell on it...just be assured that every hair on your head is numbered and God is in control.
Thanks for sharing this.

owenswain said...

God bless you. While Mark thinks of Paul I think of our Blessed Mother, who pondered "these things' in her heart and lived a life of supreme discipleship. Again, God bless you.

Interestingly I have the opposite sense, the sense that I will live a long life. I first had that awareness when our children were very young. At first I thought it might be because my wife and I had, even then, out lived one of our kids. With this idea of living long there is a different yet equal responsibility. I cannot wait until later to begin being ready. I do not want, should I be correct, to have to look back and say I really only began living fully and fully for the Lord late in life. What a shame that would be.

Also, as a pastor I saw many old people who had outlived their friends and children and spouses, they seemed lonely, sad, purposeless. I do not want to be that kind of old person. Should I live long I want to continue to live as fully as I can for the One who gave everything for me. I want to be a blessing, a joy to others, even those who may have to care for me.

We want to live as the lights that we are, regardless of our age now or of how long or brief our life may be.

Adoro said...

Mark ~ It could be what Paul is talking about, although I suspect he might be more along the lines of St. John of the Cross's analysis; he was FAR more spiritually advanced than I! But I think we all can experience that to a certain degree; Paul WAS talking to us all, not just to the "advanced souls".

Theocoid ~ I actually accepted my mortality a long time ago, but who knows if maybe it was more of a superficial level; beyond recognition? But I don't think that's what this is. It's an odd sense, really impossible to explain, but has been becoming stronger.

Terry ~ Oh, definitely not a panic attack. Never had one, but have seen them in others. And I've experienced this before...but this is more persistent. And there's no sense of "panic", it's different. But there's no worry about the good dying young here...I'm not good at all!

Adoro said...

Melody ~ Awesome she is 93 and can look back on so much. You must be able to learn a lot from her. What a blessing!

Agellius ~ Wow, how strange it must have been to have that idea at such a young age! I always used to be very driven, and very future-oriented. I haven't been now for several years, although that's not to say I don't look ahead into the future to plan for what might be coming. We all have to be prepared for something. And life is DEFINITELY worth suffering through! St. Teresa of Avila wrote of those souls who have experienced God so profoundly that they desire only to die so as to be with Him, and yet, because they love Him so much they will suffer anything, waiting as long as they have to, for Him to call them to their final ends.

Um...I'm not one of those very holy souls! I'm still an infant soul that shrinks from suffering!

Nancy ~ Wow, how are you doing? Is it something they can treat or have you gotten a scary prognosis? So many cancers can be cured (and yet leave such scars, causing such suffering), and others...well, they are the way of the cross. You'll be in my prayers! But it seems you are approaching it well, and with faith. That's the best thing you can do.

Owen ~ Like you, if I live to be old,I want to be joyful, too. I used to joke with my best friend in high school that we'd be in the same nursing home together, racing our wheelchairs down the hallway and terrorizing the staff! And when I was on a ski patrol, I saw people in their 80's and 90's still skiing, even instructing, some were still racing. They are STILL my heroes!

Terry Nelson said...

You are very good - I was just teasing. Hugs! if you do die young - please pray for me when you get there.

Adoro said...

But Terry...I'm NOT good! That's the problem!

owenswain said...

Rats, and I was just about to ask you to pray for me too. Now I don't know... ;-)

Anonymous said...

Adoro, Maybe there is truth in your feeling. My Charismatic friends tell me we Catholics are in for purging and persecution, and large-scale events. I would have dismissed that talk a few years ago, but now I don't honestly know. I've always been suspicious of "words of knowledge" and inner promptings. Yet I experienced the same feeling you describe this fall. Not to be too grim...


Warren said...

I think you'll outlive me a good 30 years.