The other day a friend of mine shared this profound aphorism from Nicolás Gómez Dávila which says:
Death is the unequivocal sign of our dependence. Our dependence is the unequivocal foundation of our hope.
In 1993, a Canadian Supreme Court judge included the following statement in his decision: “Although palliative care may be available to ease the pain and other physical discomfort which she will experience, the appellant fears the sedating effects of such drugs and argues, in any event, that they will not prevent the psychological and emotional distress which will result from being in a situation of utter dependence and loss of dignity.”
Here “utter dependence” is conflated with a “loss of dignity”, not the foundation of our hope.
Fr. Mark Goring, CC of the parish I attended in Ottawa likes to preach often on the first verse of the second chapter of the Book of Sirach which says, “My child, if you aspire to serve the Lord, prepare yourself for an ordeal.”
It is a startling sentence when we stop to think about it because most of the time we go through life trying to prepare ourselves for loving relationships, meaningful successes, a reasonable amount of prosperity, and an abundance of opportunities.
What, if anything, are we doing to prepare ourselves for an ordeal, for tests, for trials?
What young person, on being asked what he or she is doing or hopes to do, will respond that they are preparing themselves to suffer hardships honourably?
And yet, the verse above speaks about “preparing yourself” – not even being prepared simply by God or by circumstances – but intentionally and resolutely preparing yourself for the tests and trials of life that are sure to come.
What difference would it make if we set ourselves up not only for success but for ordeals?
And, what sort of education and training constitute such preparation?
This evening I was reading some of the poetry of Karol Wojtyła and came across a poem called “Hope Reaching Beyond the Limit.”
Take a look at these excerpted lines:
Hope rises in time from all places subject to death— hope is its counterweight. The dying world unveils its life again in hope.
But death is the experience of the limit, it has something of annihilation, I use hope to detach my own self, I must tear myself away to stand above annihilation. And then from all sides they call and will call out: “You are mad, Paul, you are mad.” [Acts 26:24] I wrestle with myself, with so many others I wrestle for my hope.
We need to exercise our disposition to hope.
Looking forward to the future. Seeing the possibility of new generations. Delighting in the glorious unpredictability of human affairs.
Otherwise, the limits of this life can “annihilate” our spirit.
Thanks to a dear friend of mine who recommended this fantastic episode of The Rubin Report in which David Rubin speaks with Bishop Robert Barron and Rabbi David Wolpe about what Easter and Passover teach us about freedom and hope.
I am equally recommending the episode and could not be more impressed by the quality of Jewish-Catholic relations presented in this cordial and substantive conversation.
In the course of the discussion, Rabbi Wolpe says, “This South African author, Alan Paton, has a beautiful scene in one of his novels about a guy who goes to heaven and he comes before God and God says, ‘Where are your wounds?’ And he says, ‘I don’t have any wounds.’ And God says, ‘Why? Was there nothing worth fighting for?'”
One of this blog’s readers, Lisa Wright, reached out to me to share about the organization she co-founded called the Living Wish Foundation.
Lisa, who is an Registered Nurse specializing in palliative care, and her co-founders established the Foundation with the mission “to provide medically supervised and supported end of life wishes to patients in the region who are facing a terminal diagnosis.” They do this by granting wishes that enable patients to reframe hope so to enhance their quality of life until their death.
I was fascinated by this initiative, and delighted to interview Lisa by phone to learn more.
In particular, I wanted to hear from her about how granting wishes serves to “reframe hope.”
This morning a friend of mine and I entered a Starbucks drive-thru. As my friend rolled down the window, we felt a cool morning gust. A young woman’s voice came from the speaker saying, with what may have been the greatest excitement I have heard from anyone throughout the entirety of the pandemic, “Welcome to Starbucks! What can I get for you this morning?”
My friend and I glanced at each other. The woman had sounded completely genuine. It wasn’t a phoney greeting. Yet, the enthusiasm startled us.
There is a miscellaneous text by Janusz Korczak (the Polish Jew who perished in Treblinka along with 200 children and staff of the orphanage he directed) that is titled, “How I Will Live after the War.”
In it, he notices how “about fifteen of them are keeping journals.” Most of the journals document life day-to-day and, occasionally, there are reminiscences about the past. However, “only once did someone write about what he was going to do after the war.”