My husband John C. Hathaway died in October 2018, age 41, and he suffered from a connective tissue disorder called Marfan Syndrome his entire life. He had chronic, excruciating pain, fatigue, asthma, dislocated lenses (wore trifocals), subluxed joints, low muscle tone, and aneurysms in his brain and aorta. In the last months of his life, he developed seizures.
He talks about his suffering on this blog, and how he eventually accepted it as fully walking in the footsteps of Christ. I do think it is something we as Catholics need to focus on, the redemptive suffering, that He came not to just suffer for us, but with us. My husband was mocked by some Catholics for not being healed. It really angered him as such thinking gives us a false understanding of Christ’s Love.
As I have greatly struggled with grieving my husband’s loss and wondering did I do everything I could for him, I contemplated the Holy Family, particularly St. Joseph’s death. I have seen the focus so much on St Joseph’s death being happy, that we seem to leave out the fact that it was also completely devastating for Mary and I think in some sense, Jesus.
Jesus could have healed Saint Joseph and he could have lived a longer life to be with Mary. St. Joseph literally had the Best Physician, and yet he still suffered and died– a consolation God gave me when I wondered had I done enough. I believe in His Divine Wisdom, that He allowed his foster father to die, so that He would know that excruciating suffering, along with Mary. Whenever Christ references a widow or an orphan, He is speaking from that personal pain. He also allowed his death, to remind us that being healed in this world is but for a time so we can continue to serve Him–whether He allows us to suffer or be healed has nothing to do with our personal holiness-it is only by dying and rising with Him that we are fully healed. My husband also loves(d) TS Eliot, and he recorded part of Eliot’s “Four Quartets,” The Wounded Surgeon.
It is a meditation on Good Friday. My husband recorded this a few days before his sixteen hour surgery to replace his descending aorta, which resulted in a 3 month hospital stay, mainly in cardiac ICU, hooked up to life support. He miraculously lived 5 more years and 6 months and 2 weeks.
“Our only health is the disease
If we obey the dying nurse
Whose constant care is not to please
But to remind of our, and Adam’s curse,
And that, to be restored, our sickness must grow worse.
The whole earth is our hospital
Endowed by the ruined millionaire,
Wherein, if we do well, we shall
Die of the absolute paternal care
That will not leave us, but prevents us everywhere.”
We use that line a lot when things are not going as we wished.