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Walking into the presence of God

by
19 January 2011

Last year, a retired priest reflected on coping with cancer. Now, with the end in sight, he writes again.

It was hard telling my wife, but by far the hardest thing I have done was telling my sister and our two daughters, one after the other, that evening. Our two sons-in-law were such a help.

We have decided that this is “Dad’s Adventure”, and that we will be “The Family”. Stroud, Hereford, and Swansea, where we variously live, will be linked even more closely — no one will be left out.

I am now in the care of the GP’s programme of terminal care, and we await developments, and cope. Each day.

My purpose in writing about this is to try to understand my differing thoughts and attitudes. “Freed by thee from the fear of our enemies” always echoes around, and there is an enfolding calm, almost as if I am watching this happen. There is a deepening understanding in the family, only in there being a willing­ness to express the love we have for each other in various ways, more than just knowing it.

There is a trust and a not giving in to the tiredness. There is the need to be outwardly strong for others. My sister says, “Think about your­self now.” I know what she means, but. . .

There is also the practical aspect. I am getting as many letters written as I can — about things such as changing the car ownership, and cancelling direct debits — to make it easier for others. These things will go on being done, and it is some­thing I can do to help.

Then down to the reality. I have always been aware of what I am saying in the General Confession, and have joyfully received forgive­ness for my sins, even the stupid regular ones. But one or two things in the past have sprung to mind, and there has been a chance to repent of these.

I must be more thankful, too — to God for his blessings and guid­ance, to the parishes for their care, and to the family for being “us”.

I used to find the Anima Christi so rich, but now the petitions change. The reaching upward to fulfilment seems to leave me now on a plateau. “Sanctify me” — the working out of the now at this stage, the enriching of the now, and never mind seeking the future. “Streng­then me” — that is obvious for the now; as is “Suffer me never ever to be separated from thee” (my version).

I am not concerned for the future, except for my anxiety for my family, and how they will manage financially with the necessary bur­den of the shared-equity mortgage-interest payments.

I RECOGNISE a number of changes in attitude. One thing is already wonderful — the sacrament of holy communion. Holding the host in one’s hand for those precious few seconds, a growing awesomeness, a glimpse into eternity, an aura of the presence of Christ. This is a link that gets stronger, utter reality and beauty. There is a kind of openness — “The love of God enfold us.”

This must be kept firmly in mind, for who knows what blasts may come in the future? But what I need now is to realise more firmly the assurance beyond the academic, that whatever I shall need later will be covered fully. I have the joy of living today with the blessings that God has provided for today’s needs; so why be anxious about tomorrow?

These changes of attitude and understanding, I am beginning to realise, are God-inspired — from his side, not mine. He continues to give an awareness to me.

There is more than just relaxing into God’s care; for there is now a timescale, and things have to be done. I need the grace to make what preparations are needed for the sake of the family. “Get your affairs in order,” the doctor said.

The indulgence of seeking a closer link with God must not ignore, or leave out, the practical. Yet that search is behind it; for I shall be going into “the nearer presence of God”, as I have so often said at funerals. And I want to be aware of this walking forward, this being taken forward.

There is a peacefulness at the moment, no longer a pressing forward spiritually. Yet I am being given a greater awareness. There is, too, the determination, while I can, to minimise the family’s burdens. Things need to be done now before I lose my puff. There is a strange mix of the realities.

Now there is a richer awareness of where God has brought me, spiritually. The deep and rich “now” of God and his love. One can slip into mouthing the “right” phrases, but it is better than that — a glimps­ing of the reality that was always there, and which will be joyfully known more fully.

Of course, my funeral is planned. It is to be a happy and joyous re­quiem — the glory of the eucharist, the offering and commending of my soul, and all the fellowship of family and friends.

“Go forth, O Christian soul . . .”

Please pray for my family, and for me, a sinner.

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