A Reflection on Life and Death

Holding Hands with Elderly Patient aging oldToday I have been reflecting on life and death.

This past Saturday my oldest daughter married her best friend in front of God surrounded by family and friends. There was a joyous celebration after the nuptial Mass.  My mother was under the weather but attended that Mass and came to the reception for a short time. I insisted that the photographer get some group shots of my parents with my daughter and son-in-law.

Last night my mother was admitted to the hospital with severe dehydration and severe alcohol withdrawal as a result of a “bug” or infection of some sort.  This morning she was completely incoherent and this afternoon she is sedated and on a ventilator while the medical staff tries to figure out what made her sick and help her through the withdrawal.

I have known for years that my mother is alcoholic. She will not admit she has a problem. My father enables her by buying her the wine that she drinks in such copious amounts. He tells me that he enjoys just a couple of drinks a day because his doctor read him the riot act a couple of years ago. I don’t know if that is true. He told me this afternoon that he knew something like this would happen eventually.  He says he has begged my mother to stop drinking for years. Al-anon helped me to realize that I can only change myself. I have tried explaining this to dad, but he either can’t or won’t hear it.

This illness is severe enough that it is possible my mother will die. Because of the alcoholism I have distanced myself from her for years.  I still see her two or three times a year and we make small talk on the phone, but I am not close to her. I have been watching and waiting for the day when she and my father might need my assistance, but they have kept me at arm’s length as much as I have kept them at arm’s length.

This brings me to today. Today I realized that despite my lack of closeness to my mother, I am not ready to lose her. I realized that I want my children to have her around a little longer. I particularly want her around for my youngest son who has already lost his paternal grandparents.

Life really is a cycle.  We have those joyous occasions like births and baptisms, First Holy Communion days, Confirmation and high school graduation.   We have momentous occasions like college graduation, marriages and first homes. These days are days when we praise God and thank Him for his goodness.

Then we have days like today; days full of sadness and worry, days that are little deaths leading eventually to the end of our lives here on earth. These are days of prayer for peace, and for happy death, days of seeking God’s mercy in the end of things. They may even be days of pleading with God to give us more time or less pain.

All of these days, both the joyous and the sad, are days when we should praise God. Our suffering is nothing compared to His sacrifice. We frail humans often forget this, even when we are still in the Octave of Easter as we are now. We want to rail at God for these sufferings. We accuse Him of being unfair.  We complain that we don’t understand.  When all is said and done, we must just trust that God’s word is true and that He does have a plan. We know that He broke the shackles of death. We must have faith.

“I alone know the plans I have for you, plans to bring you prosperity and not disaster, plans to bring about the future you hope for.” Jeremiah 29:11, Good News Translation

Marie Trebeh is the pen name of a Catholic mom and businesswoman.