We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you. Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.
I can still see her. She’d been in the hospice for some time, off and on, but her final weeks were spent there – in a borrowed room. Her family tried so hard to make it their home and to make home of it for her. Familiar bits and pieces, photos of happier days, some of the food she liked – those everyday things that make something of life for us as we journey along. She knew, it seemed to all, more than she pretended and she moved along this uninvited path, surrounded by those who loved her most, knew her best and wanted – more than anything – to see her beat the odds, defy the diagnosis and enjoy what was her real home for many more years. “Ah, hello”, became her greeting of choice when anyone would walk into her room. There was a real effort in her intonation. She wanted to sound bright and in tune so that the tone would be set for all who came to see her. It was a wish, on her part, that despite all that was happening within and around her, people would be drawn into what was bright and in tune.
The last time we met was almost in total silence. I thought she was asleep or maybe even more deeply at rest in her own self and decided that I should celebrate with her, in quietness, the Sacrament of The Sick. I prayed the words, so low that there wasn’t even a whisper and when I reached to put the Oil on her forehead, she turned her two hands over – inviting the Oils to be placed on her palms. She knew what was happening and responded with open hands. When I finished, she looked up and said “you’re so good”. It was the most amazing “Amen” I’ve ever heard. Without formalising it, she said her “AMEN” – her so be it, in a way that was deeply spiritual and wholly appropriate. Her “amen” was gratitude and acceptance.
Hours, rather than days later, there followed her final Amen. I wasn’t there but those who mattered most to her were. I often think of the slowness of the moment, the reality dawning that her time had come and then there followed the disconnection of medical companionship for the journey – monitors perhaps – since they were no longer needed. Drawing near to her, was family and beyond them friends and neighbours, all working together to remove her from the cross – to take her, not so much down, as home and to want to walk that road with her. I hear again Jesus’ words at the eleventh station; “it is accomplished”, head bowed, spirit given – all that was left was for the right thing to be done by and for her.
I sometimes think that the Irish are especially gifted in the way they tend to one another at times like this. Other people’s houses, kitchens and lives are invaded by a wave of practical kindness that helps take people from the Cross. I’d hate to think we’d ever lose that. No financial bailouts, no economic downturns or negative equity, should ever stop us wanting to reach to the one on the cross and those standing at its foot, so that we can help – that we can carry – that we can give rest to the ones gone and loving support to those left behind.
You’d almost think Joseph of Arimathea must have Irish relations ….. even if he hadn’t, he did the right thing.
Oh, that today we would listen to his voice, let us harden not our hearts.