Friday, April 01, 2005

Teaching us how to die

The words that have been used are 'no hope.'

It's hard to imagine becoming teary-eyed over the potential death of someone we have never met, that most have never even seen in person. I think the media has made the pope more present in our lives than any other religious figure, including Mother Theresa. We have seen and felt his unwavering message, conviction and goodness he has exemplified. He has lead an amazing life.

It's the stuff movies are made of--Polish boy from a single-parent home becomes an actor and playwright and published poet, studies and is ordained to the priesthood inside a Nazi work camp, becomes a cardinal and then the first non-Italian pope in ages. The KGB wanted him dead, so he obviously made the right enemies. He's been a beacon of simplicity, clarity, common sense and the compassion of Christ in confusing, overly complicated times. He has held the hard line with the failings of the western culture, but also captured the hearts and love of the youth (I remember the often repeated chant from Toronto World Youth Day--"JP Two, We Love You). Some say he is a mystic. He has taught us how to relate to the modern world with two thousand year old values. He hasn't gone off to die quietly and out of view, he has continued on his work until the very last, teaching us to embrace and move past our frailty.

He's 84 and entitled to his ill health and death. However, we never want to see that kind of clarity and light go out in the world. Not in a world of Scott Petersons and Michael Schivos. Not in a world where genoside can rage unchecked in Rowanda and terrorists can kill people out of hate and religious fervor all over the world. We don't want to lose one more defender against the darkness.

John Paul II has been the only pope of my life-time. I don't know what it was like, or what it will be like to have a less sainted pope. I wonder what it will be like to be lead by someone that I may not trust as implicitly as I have this pope.

When I think about the passing of the pope, and his suffering (parkensons, breathing problems, a septic infection, etc) I remember how my grandfather died, and I get teary-eyed just thinking about it. His decline in recent years has made me see my grandfather every time I look into his face. When he passes, I suspect I'll be mourning my grandfather again. And Ray and Elenore. All the truely good and holy people in my life.


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