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Be Nice To Me. I'm Dying. | Mary Beth Bonacci | IgnatiusInsight.com
This article originally appeared on RealLove.net
on September 10, 2007.
I don't know when or from what. But I'm dying. We all are.
I've written before about how my life runs in themes. I seem to go
through different periods where one particular topic seems to
consistently float across my day-to-day radar.
It's not terribly cheery when that topic is death.
Most of it hasn't been out and out tragic. Just little reminders of out
final destination. A radio host dedicated an hour to the question "How
would you live if you knew you only had one year left?" (First answer:
less television.) I heard a segment from a talk by a college,
healthy-sounding college professor who indeed has only a year to live.
Then a soap opera character with a terminal illness. Then a homily on
"we know not the day or the hour."
And then there are the anniversaries. Just this month, we commemorate
the tenth anniversaries of the deaths of Princess Diana, Mother Teresa
and Rich Mullins.
I spent this past weekend speaking at a Women of Grace conference with
my friend Johnette Benkovic. Johnette's wonderful husband Anthony died
of a brain tumor last spring, just three years after they lost their son
in a tragic automobile accident.
And now, just a few minutes ago, I received a call from a good friend.
The 17 year old son of his good friend was found dead in his room this
morning. We're still trying to find out what happened.
When we were teenagers, my brother used to say "Be nice to me. I'm
dying." I'd ask him of what he was dying, and he'd say "I don't know
yet. But I'm dying."
Indeed, we all are.
It's a fundamental truth of the spiritual life that we need to be
reminded of the inevitability of our own death. This ride doesn't last
forever. Indeed, it doesn't last particularly long. I'm not interested
in hastening my own death, but neither am I particularly interested in
living forever. An eternity of the daily to-do list just doesn't appeal
to me. We need the sense that we're moving toward a destination, and
that one day we will actually arrive there.
But we get very distracted by the trappings of the journey. I love
buying new clothes. I love decorating my house. And yet, it isn't my
permanent home I'm decorating. Nor is it my permanent body. I don't
like that. When I die, some poor family member of mine is going to have
to schlep through this house and all of the clothing and "stuff" it
contains--most of which will probably be carted off to Goodwill. A
lifetime of accumulated possessions reduced to a loaded charity truck
and a tax-deductible receipt.
It helps to think in those terms once in a while. It isn't pleasant,
but it helps. I suspect that's why God usually starts taking all of
those things away while we're still here. I see the lines start to form
on my face, and I realize I can't hang on to youth or to physical
appearance. It reminds me that, in the end, I can only hang on to God.
And that's good.
I've written before--but it bears repeating--that we need to live our
lives from the deathbed backwards. That doesn't just mean racking up a
roster of good deeds. Not that there's anything wrong with that. But
we weren't put on this earth simply to do good deeds. We were put here
to do the will of God, to begin in this life the union we will
experience with Him in the next. As we surrender ourselves to the God
Who sees the Big Picture, He begins to direct our lives. He puts us
where He wants us, where we should be, where we can do the most good for
ourselves, our families and our world.
Over the past weekend, Johnette talked about how people who are dying,
if they are open to God, often make very significant spiritual progress
very quickly. I believe that. I thought I was dying once. I was
diagnosed with malignant melanoma. It took a while to ascertain exactly
how serious it was, and what my long-term prognosis would be. It was
amazing, in those first few days after I was diagnosed, how radically my
priorities changed. I found myself repulsed by mass media. Couldn't
stand to listen to the radio. Standing in a shopping mall I felt
surrounded by trinkets, junk. It wasn't that I had thought my way to
some kind of conclusion about the uselessness of media noise or consumer
goods. It was visceral, instinctive, instant. I just saw it all
through new eyes. Of course, once I completed treatment and realized I
had every reason to expect a long, healthy life, I went back to the
radio and the Banana Republic.
It's really easy to forget that I'm still dying. We all are.
Related IgnatiusInsight.com Articles and Book Excerpts:
The Question of Suffering, the
Response of the Cross | Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
Near Death, Nearer to Jesus
| Interview with Fr. Benedict Groeschel
Reincarnation: The Answer of Faith
| Christoph Schönborn
Murder On Campus: A Meditation
On Death of the Young | Fr. James V. Schall, S.J.
Why Do We Exist? | Fr. James V. Schall, S.J.
From Defeat to Victory: On the Question
of Evil | Alice von Hildebrand
The Cross and The Holocaust | Regis Martin
Mary Beth Bonacci is internationally known for her talks
and writings about love, chastity, and sexuality. Since 1986 she has spoken
to tens of thousands of young people, including 75,000 people in 1993 at
World Youth Day in Denver, Colorado. She appears frequently on radio and
television programs, including several appearances on MTV.
Mary Beth has written two books, We're
on a Mission from God and Real
Love, and also writes a regular, syndicated column for various publications.
She has developed numerous videos, including her brand-newest video series,
also entitled Real Love. Her video Sex
and Love: What's a Teenager to Do? was awarded the 1996 Crown Award
for Best Youth Curriculum.
Mary Beth holds a bachelor's degree in Organizational Communication from
the University of San Francisco, and a master's degree in Theology of Marriage
and Family from the John Paul II Institute at Lateran University. She was
also awarded an honorary doctorate in Communications from the Franciscan
University of Steubenville, and is listed in Outstanding Young Women
of America for 1997. Her apostolate, Real
Love Incorporated is dedicated to presenting the truth about the Church's
teaching about sexuality, chastity, and marriage.
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