Facing Death . . . over, and over, and over (originally published 10/17/09)

I’m not talking about some science fiction story here.

Most adults have probably had some “brush with death” in their life by the time they reach their 30s, whether it’s a diagnosis–or possible diagnosis–of a life threatening illness, an accident, or whatever.  Even just contemplating the death of someone we know puts us in touch with our own mortality.

There are several approaches to the idea of impending death:

  • “Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die” — or anything to that effect
  • Making sure your loved ones know you care
  • Getting very spiritual very fast
  • Despair
  • Working hard to get something accomplished.

What few people have to deal with is the constant awareness that, not only are they mortal, but there’s a relatively high probability they could die today.  And don’t tell me, “You could be hit by a bus.”  I get sick of hearing that response (or words to that effect).

If a person says, “Oh, no!  What if I get hit by a bus?” all the tiem, that’s generally considered being paranoid and/or phobic.

It is not paranoid and/or phobic for a Marfan, especially a post-operative Marfan with a St. Jude valve, a daily dose of Warfarin (aka Rat Poison), a brain aneurysm, and a thoracic aortic aneurysm to think, “What if I die today?”  Especially when one hears of middle-aged Marfans whose aortas dissect simply from the strain of coughing.

Today, I learned of a 16 year old girl who died of Marfan syndrome on October 9.  Her name was Madison Beaudroux.  She told her sister, “I feel like I’m going to pass out.”  She did, and those were her last words.

Every day, there’s some point where I feel like I’m going to pass out, and I often think at those moments, “What if I’m dying?”

Sometimes, I just get in so much pain that I don’t quite “pass out” or fall asleep, but I just kind of hunch over and close my eyes and stay perfectly still.  I think, “What if I die like this?” or, more precisely, “If I had just died, would anyone have noticed?”

Every day, I consider each of those above options to some degree or another.  Usually one or another predominates the others, depending upon my mood, circumstances, etc. 

Every time I get up to do something mildly strenuous, I stop and think, “What if this is the strain that pushes me over the edge?  Will this be worth it?”

What of my duties to this family God has given me?  Is it better to push myself to the limits for them and die or to hold back and be there for them?   Would I not be of more use to them as a saint in Heaven than as a cripple here on earth?
What of my duties to this body God has given me?  Is it merely a mere “coil” to be “shuffled off”?  Is it essentially a burden to be relieved from or a treasure to be protected? How to walk that line?

What of the sins I commit in thought and deed and ommission because of the strain my constant pain and fatigue put on my conscience?  Are the pain and fatigue merely the devil pressuring me to sin?  Will God show me mercy if I can’t get to Confession in time to once again confess the same bad habits and mindsets I fall back into over and over?  What if I’m not detached enough?  What if I’m just excusing myself? 

Have mercy on us, and on the whole world.

7 responses to “Facing Death . . . over, and over, and over (originally published 10/17/09)

  1. Honey, we love you and miss you. I think that is so hard to balance and I am sorry I was not more patient with you. Hang in there, dear, and let us know if you are coming by train or not.

  2. Have you made the 9 First Friday Masses commitment? Doesn’t that promise the sacraments before you die?

    • I completed the first Fridays and First Saturdays at some point in high school. I’m trying to do them again in this year of priests.

  3. Although you have many questions, He is the Answer. Do your best, therefore, to maintain what balance you can between your responsibilities to your family and to keeping your body well, and ask God to place His thumb on the scale to make up the difference. Don’t let yourself agonize over it.

    When a situation arises that requires a decision between physical strain and rest, ask for God’s grace, decide quickly, and offer it up to Him. You either take action, offering him your pain, and trusting Him to know when it is time, or you rest, offering Him your frustration, and trusting Him to ensure that your family gets everything they need. Either way, as long as you make your choice to demonstrate your love and trust in God, He will make up the difference.

    Finally, remember that even the greatest saints had to rely on God’s Infinite Mercy.

  4. John,

    About all I can tell you is what I tell myself daily: God, in His infinite love, is in charge and I can control only my own actions, words and thoughts. And so I try to do God’s will by loving Him and my neighbor and obeying His commandments. Because so much of what happens to me is beyond my control, what else can I do?

    And, yes, I certainly fail often enough, but my faith keeps me from anxiety and despair. Faith, that marvelous, miraculous gift, demands little from us but trust — trust in the little things and in the midst of the severest trials. And sometimes I think we forget what omniscience and omnipotence really mean, especially when understood in the context of God’s infinite love. Meditate on that and allow yourself to trust.

    To ease our minds and hearts, to free ourselves from anxiety for our families, we can consecrate our families to His Sacred Heart, His Heart overflowing with forgiveness and mercy, and trust that His will be done in their lives as in ours.

    You and your beautiful, wonderful family are always in my prayers.

    God’s peace…

    Deacon Dana

  5. I’m not Catholic, so I can’t comment on particulars, but I have to believe that God is merciful and that he will have mercy on us.

    I believe that although our physical bodies are not perfect, we are still of use to our families here. I feel like because our bodies are not perfect, we have a greater propensity for empathy and charity, and that those are things we need to teach to our children.

    I believe that through prayer we can know what God wants of us. The balance, as you pointed out, is so hard, and as humans we’re fallible and won’t always make the right/best choice. But, I believe that God knows we won’t always be perfect, and that that was the point of Christ’s Atonement for us. I believe that He made us the way we are and He doesn’t make mistakes, and so there are things that we have to learn from having Marfan, and as long as we are trying out best, and trying to do what God will have us do, that He will be merciful. 🙂

  6. If only more than 51 people could hear this..

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