The Worry of Death
My friend from college Nancy Keelin Tannucilli, posted a brief note on facebook tonight saying how much she misses her dad, who died 21 years ago when we were just freshmen at Fordham. You might find it hard to believe that I remember that event so clearly (I didn’t even have to do the math to remember when it was) but, Nancy was the first person I knew that was my own age who had a parent die.
For most of my adult life I lived with the anxiety of thinking that my mother was going to die…and die sooner rather than later. Always with a myriad of health problems, my mother has shuttled in and out of hospitals since I was about 9 years old.
“How’s your mother?” was an oft-heard question to me as a child.
“Well…she went into the hospital…”
“AGAIN!?” was the exasperated response from my questioner who found it hard to believe that mom had been hospitalized for probably the fifth time that year.
So when Nancy’s father died, our freshman year, I kinda thought I would be the next college student who would be experiencing the loss of a parent.
But through the grace of God, mom made it to graduation. I didn’t take a few out of state jobs that I had opportunity to venture into, so that I would be near home, just in case something went wrong with mom. Although continually making her frequent hospital visits, mom muddled through. It takes a toll on her, but she continues her battle with rheumatoid arthritis (which is a dreadful disease that is a killer and we are only recently finding out more about this disease today), severe asthma, anxiety, colon problems and more that I won’t bore you with.
Suffice it to say that she’s gone through a lot. And for a good portion of my college and young adult life, we suffered along with her emotionally.
On the day of my wedding, when she should have been dancing with me, mom was getting prepped for major colon surgery. I thought surely thought that was going to be the end. But she rallied, given only a 29% chance to live, she somehow, someway, recovered. She and my father struggled with her recovery, as some of you may have read about on Busted Halo® but with some help from Fr Jim Lloyd, CSP, who calmed my mother’s anxiety and got her to believe that she indeed was going to live much longer, mom was still with us.
Last year, mom turned 80. My college roommate, Joe Patane called me up on her birthday.
“Hey isn’t it your mom’s 80th birthday today?”
“Yep, I’m headed there right now.”
“That’s awesome! You know, Mike, for as long as I’ve known you, you’ve lived with the anxiety that your mom is going to die. And I’ve known you now for 20 years!”
“Yeah, you’re probably right about that..”
“Mike, I think you can let that one go now…”
I laughed and then of course, I cried. Because he was right. Nancy and all those whose parents died much too young have had it much worse than I have. My mom, though sick, is still here at 81. And my dad, also 81, has had a rich life, filled with much joy, some pain, some sorrow, but much love.
And now that they are in their 80s, I have to be OK with the fact that every day for them is gift. And there are more days behind them than ahead of them to be sure.
And therein is the point for all of us really. Each day is gift and for some of us, we may not be here tomorrow. We need to bless each day with the joy of life in Christ, which gives us hope for our death, that we might live with him forever.
For Mom, each day is grace and has been for nearly 30 years.
And for each of you who have lost their parents, each day is also grace in which you remember a life that blessed you with the very gift of life itself. Let us remember the joys of our parents, for upon our birth, we were such joy for them (perhaps not in our teen-age years but hey…that’s another story). Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord and let perpetual light shine upon them. May their souls and all the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.
And Nancy, your dad is very, very proud of the woman and mother that you have become.