Blog Article posted by Kathy McNicholas – September 11, 2017
My mom was diagnosed with metastatic lung cancer in August, 2003 and died in October of the same year. It didn’t give us much time to prepare for death. To adjust. To process what was happening. Often during those days, my thoughts ran in circles – What do we need to talk about? What should I say to her? What does she want to share with me? How can I help?
My mom seemed even less able to understand her sudden new reality. She was almost childlike in her reactions, not absorbing information well – and who could blame her? Who of us could ever claim to be ready to face the last days of our life with clarity and confidence?
One day, when I was driving her to radiation, and it was awkwardly silent in the car, she said softly, “Do you think I’m dying?”
My heart sank, my thoughts raced. I started to panic. Given all of our fragile states, how could I respond? I didn’t want to offer false hope (cancer was everywhere – the radiation was for palliative reasons only), but could I be the one to push my own mother to confront her deepest fear? I muttered, “Well, the doctors are saying it doesn’t look good.”
She sat quietly for a few moments, while my heart pounded in my chest. I hoped and prayed that that would be enough truth for both of us for one day.
Then she spoke again, words that I’ll never forget… words that changed my life in that moment. She said, “I can’t be dying – I haven’t done what I was supposed to do.”
We continued on in silence. We never spoke further about what she meant. I thought to myself, she had had a good, albeit difficult, life. She attended some college, raised six children, had many friends, loved her gardening. But this awareness she shared – that she’d had some “deeper purpose” that she’d left unfulfilled – haunts me to this day. She revealed a truth, a reality, more frightening to me than death itself: a life lived without reaching its purpose. Or at least, having your life come to an end, without the comfort of feeling you had shared your significance. Your unique giftedness. Your raison d’ê•tre.
That is why I am more fully Catholic, despite the ridicule I take for it. Why I pray and seek Communion, intimacy, with Christ. Because I believe that only in Christ will I understand my deeper purpose. And only with Christ will I find the strength to keep striving, to fulfill my deeper purpose. And only through Christ can I share the truth of His message with others:
Living a life of meaning, in harmony with our deeper purpose, IS to conquer death. To overcome fear. To be at peace with this world. This is the Way to eternal life.
— Kathy McNicholas