It is the eve of my mother’s anniversary. She died in Westport, County Mayo on 23rd October 2010, just twelve years ago. She was 94 years of age. She was a wonderful woman and the most loving mother anyone could ever have. Her death did not devastate me. The long years had prepared us all for her departing, and her final two years in a care home bed helped us all to absorb the truth that soon she would be gone from us.
In those final years life had been dramatic enough for me as my wife, Margaret suffered from a terminal disease of the lungs, and went through the miracle of a lung transplant operation, which gave her new lease of life. Margaret was great friends with my mother. These two women were the lynchpins of my life. Little did I know that just two years after my mother’s death, Margaret too would lose her life, to a sudden and unexpected tumour on her brain.
In the years when they were both ill, I used to excuse myself and go out in the evening for a quiet walk. It was winter time and the nights were dark. The dark clouds surrounded my soul and I needed air if there was no light. I felt quite numb, not knowing how life would now turn out, or if things would ever brighten again.
I wasn’t depressed in those days, just walking in darkness, not seeing any light ahead of me. Things would get much worse later on. In the years after Margaret died I slowly went down hill until I arrived finally in the land of depression. The frightening thing about depression is that no one and nothing seems capable of stirring you back into action or into life.
The hardship is that life goes on and you wish it wouldn’t. You just want everything to stop. But life goes on. Either you face that fact and respond to it, or you throw in your chips. I remember a morning my son sat with me for four hours while I contemplated the act of getting out of bed. Finally he told me to get up and get a shower. To move myself, and I did.
That memory came back to me the other day when I sat beside an old friend and saw the woeful condition of a person who is losing the will to live and who says ‘what’s the point?’ People get very upset when they can’t help the sufferer, and we also get very frustrated, angry even that no response is forthcoming. The fact that my friend came many miles to see me may have been a diversionary tactic, a distraction, but it also signifies a desire however tiny, to be well. In our suffering we need people to talk to us and to tell us what we should do. But the doing is up to us.
Today in the gospel people came to Jesus to tell him about some folk who were killed and Jesus spoke about others killed when a tower fell on them. Then he said, don’t think those people were any different from you. They weren’t. We are all the same and we are all called to turn our faces to the light: To turn to God and his goodness: To make that goodness the cause of our life.
The sun comes every morning to wake you up. Even on dark days like this morning when the cloud cover was thick. Get out of bed and face the day. Thank God for life and live it.
22 October 2022