July 31, 2022
“‘I shall tear down my barns and build larger ones.
There I shall store all my grain and other goods
and I shall say to myself, ‘Now as for you,
you have so many good things stored up for many years,
rest, eat, drink, be merry!’’
But God said to him,
‘You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you;
and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?’”
This night your life will be demanded of you. I was anxious before my second back surgery. Although the chance is low, there is always a possibility, they warn you, that going under anesthesia could result in not waking up. In other words, death. I was quite relieved when I finally came to my senses and realized I was alive. Thank God I didn’t die! As I was going under, I remember my heart racing a bit and my fear rising within me. I had no peace and a deep concern that this could be the end.
Sometime later, I had a weird dream. I was a very important person (why, I do not know) and was traveling with my entourage on a Gulfstream or Learjet. When we landed and parked on the tarmac, a limo was there to take me to a hangar where I would be greeted by other very important people. On the way, we had to stop at a security checkpoint with guards armed with M-16 rifles. I had no fear of this and appreciated the added security. At the checkpoint, one guard opened my door and I presumed it was to verify my identity. He immediately pointed his M-16 at my face and fired a shot. Often, at this point in this kind of dream, I would have awoken immediately with a racing heart, fear, and quite a start. In this dream, I realized I was dead and my first though was, “Oh, good, now I get to see what happens next.” I then awoke with a deep sense of calm and peace. My heart was grateful and I went right back to sleep.
Prior to my third, and hopefully last, back surgery, I asked Archbishop Kurtz to anoint me in the Sacrament of the Sick. I went to his rectory at the Cathedral of the Assumption and we had a beautiful time of prayer together followed by a wonderful conversation. A few days later, I was prepped for surgery and the same warning that I might not wake up was given. This time, however, I was not fearful. I was at peace. If this was my time to go, I was ready. I did not feel as if anything had been left undone or unsaid. I did not want to die, but if that was the outcome, I was prepared to see what happened next. My sense of peace caught me off guard, but I was confident in God’s mercy and love. I didn’t want my mom, my dad, or any of those I love to suffer my loss, but I trusted that God would be with them. When I awoke, I was grateful, not just to be alive, but for those who had treated me with expertise and skill. Somehow, even the way I woke up was a witness to those who were treating me. I was, still, at peace.
The truth is, none of us know when our time will come. It is, however, inevitable. I’m not intending to be morbid, but we are all going to die. This night our lives might be demanded of us. Faith is not magic, but it is real and has significant implications. I received my peace in the face of possible death as a gift. It was grace. God was at work. There is a Catholic tradition of praying for a happy death. I know it seems like an oxymoron. Simeon, who in Luke’s Gospel was promised that he would not see death until he had seen the messiah, is an example for us. When Jesus was presented in the Temple, Simeon voiced one of my favorite prayers that I pray every night, “Lord, now you let your servant go in peace; your word has been fulfilled: my own eyes have seen the salvation which you have prepared in the sight of every people: a light to reveal you to the nations and the glory of your people Israel.” As is prayed in the Liturgy of the Hours night prayer, may God grant us a restful night and a peaceful death.