Extented quotes Jim's Last Summer
Lessons on Living from a Dying Priest
by Teresa Rhodes McGee
with a Comment from me.
“'Come back and see me.' I told him that he could count on that, I was finding it remarkably difficult to accept that 'just being' with Jim was enough. He knew that he was dying; I knew that he was dying. The surprise was that like so many times in life, the actual experience was turning out to be far longer, more powerful, and inescapably transforming than than the idea of it had been. Living that truth was painful in that far more than I expected it threw me face to face with my own fears and limitations. Jim keep telling me through his stories that embracing such feelings and realities is the only pathway to life. Sitting with Jim and his stories made it clear to me that dying is at least as much work as being born. Over and over in life we must pass through a process as old and inexplicable as the timing of leaves changing colors. Every time that we do so can seem like the first because what no one can predict is the nature and demands of each rebirth. WE can only sit in its presence and realize that indeed our broken presence is all that we can provide. When I accepted that with Jim, my energy was renewed so that I could be with him and learn more about the perplexing realities of change. I also knew in a different way that presence is at the heart of life's meaning.” p. 112
“ I could not articulate at that time something that Jim was then in the middle of teaching me. When we become ill, we suffer a great loss, or are for any other reason not fully in control of life, we inhibit a world that often feels invisible except to others who live there. Strength and self-reliance have been misconstrued as the normal and admirable way of being in the world. This is particularly true in the small part of the world where affluence can cushion the reality and appearance of human suffering. Once we have experienced the phone call in the middle of the night that changes everything, the positive blood test or biopsy, the loss of a loved one, addiction or any of the difficulties of human life, we become vulnerable in ways that are hard to reconcile with previous expectations. Something has not worked right, be it our own immune systems or our notion of a powerful, protective God. We cross over into a different experience and understanding of life where vulnerability is immediate and pervasive. A new sight becomes available. Priorities shift and rearrange. Nothing is assumed about the guarantee of a future. Gratitude is not likely to be the first feeling experienced during the shift.”
When in the midst of discovering that vulnerability, the world that believes in its own strength can become very annoying.” p130
“ The world of vulnerability is the domain of the human heart and soul. Until we have traveled there through circumstance beyond our control, most of us would rather impersonate strength. Yet it is in the broken heart, the humanity that is changed by loss and limitation, that true conversion takes place. It is a powerful thing to gather around brokenness:…” p. 131-132
“There is a tendency to think of healing as erasure of illness, pain, or brokenness. That is a false notion. Healing is wholeness that comes through embracing one's humanity — its limitations and it gifts — and as a result joining the human race. I have seen people who were cured and not healed; they carried bitterness about the insult of their illness and struggle for years. At the same time, healing sometimes comes to the physically and mentally ill trough their disease might remain the same. Healing is an ongoing process because life is an ongoing process. It comes to the soul, connects us to each other, and never ends in this life. Healing is nourished by faith in an unseen “rest of the story,' It cannot grow in the proud of heart and very often, the deepest form of healing in no way resembles a physical cure. We begin to heal when we know that God is here, even in the midst of realities and events that we will never be able to fully understand.” P. 146-147
This book answered a recurring question of mine especially in these recent months as I have been visiting the ill and aged who often cannot speak due to strokes or senile dementia, along with ailments. My visits to hospital acute lung unit where room after room doubled in occupancy with people unable to breath on their own, talk, move or have any normal existence as we know it. It seems unbearable and yet they continue living. My heart breaks for these people and wonders and asks God why? Where is your power to heal these people, why must they suffer, why do some have this ignominious result of whatever happened? Some of them from surgery, some from a sudden happening restricting them for life in a prison of bed and care. Why as believers, as followers of Christ Jesus, why are we without his healing power? What do we lack? Where is God's spirit? Jeremiah's words are:
“For the hurt of my poor people I am hurt, I mourn, and dismay has taken hold of me.
Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there?
Why then has the health of my poor people not been restored? – Jeremiah 8:21-22
I beleive we are to accept God's providence for each of us as the Divine purpose for our lives as this is the Divine Will ofr our sancitifcation process. The humility to accept what ever that may mean is a life long endeavor that requires God's Grace…which is free for the asking. May we ask and receive! Amen.
God help me…one of the weakest is doing this! Amen.