Each day a treasure
Volume 18, Issue 17
About this time last year I was beginning my fight back after coming face to face with death. Following many weeks of chemotherapy to control the lymphoma I had been diagnosed with, I had collapsed at the presbytery from pneumonia and a complete breakdown of my immune system.
Taken by ambulance to St Vincent’s Hospital, I lay for a number of days in the intensive care unit. During that time my family were being prepared to face the fact that I might die despite the expert care I was receiving. I don’t remember a great deal of what happened to me during those hours of waiting. In God’s providence, I was not destined to die at the time, but to survive. Why this was so, He alone knows, but my survival and gradual recovery have allowed me ample opportunity to prayerfully reflect on all that took place during those fateful days last year. Now I’d like to share some of those reflections with you.
The first and most profound of all the notions that have come flooding into my mind has been an abiding awareness of my mortality. Quite obviously, I have always been conscious of the fact that I will die at one time or other. Yet because I had known virtually no significant illness for the first 73 years of my life, death had always appeared to be a long way off, in the far distant future.
This idea of my own longevity was reinforced in my casual thinking by the fact that both my parents lived happily and well into their 80s. In addition, I’d always taken reasonable care of my own health.
All these concepts were suddenly undermined once I was rushed to hospital. Without exaggeration, as I grappled with the possibility of dying, I felt somewhat like Jesus during his agony in Gethsemane. What the Father was asking of Him was suffering that would culminate in His death. That had become a matter of stark reality for Him. For my part of course it was much more a case of what might happen. I might have had to suffer and die soon – much sooner than I had anticipated. So, instead of waiting for some life threatening diagnosis for yourself, you might choose to be wiser than I was, and come to terms with your own mortality now rather than later.
As I prayed, lying helplessly there in the hospital, I endeavoured to come to terms with what is loosely referr
ed to as “the will of God.” I did not perceive God as inflicting my illness on me. Rather, I came to view Him as allowing it to happen to me. Whether that was for some particular purpose, I didn’t see any point in pursuing it at that time.
At no stage did I find myself moaning, “Why me, Lord?” Nor did I demand to be cured. My simple prayer was: “Lord, whatever You want of me, I want that, too.”
A third consequence of my ruminations over my near death experience was a firm resolve that whatever time is still left to me I should use it purposefully in the light of all that happened to me last year. For instance, I like to think that I now treasure each day and the opportunities it offers more so than I did in the past, and use it more effectively to serve God and to love other people. I am also endeavouring to have a deeper compassion for the sick and the elderly, and to better appreciate what they are going through themselves.
There have been many other thoughts that have arisen in my mind during my drawn-out process of healing and my steady working through my second chance at life. All that I’ve tried to do here is to highlight three of the major ones that might be of interest to you in your own journey.
While I’d like to share others with you, I’ll leave you with just one more: the pervading need I have to be grateful. There is an urge within me to thank God for the borrowed time that He is allowing me. At the same time, I’m filled with gratefulness to you and to everyone else who has supported me with love and prayer throughout what has been the greatest crisis of my life thus far. Accordingly, may God reward you abundantly for the kindness you have shown me.
As broadcast during the Family Counsellor Program over Radio Sport 927 on Sunday, 9 September 2007.