I sit here tonight, my tv tuned to CNN, and I hang on their every word. The Holy Father is dying, and I feel … strangely adrift.
I do not know John Paul II. I’ve never met him. I’ve never attended a Mass which he officiated. But he is the head of the Church – he is my pastor, if you like, the pastor of over a billion people worldwide. I’ve never known any other Pope; I was barely two years old when his papacy began. When I heard the news early this morning that this man of mighty spirit was not expected to survive this latest struggle against the frailties of his body, I gaped helplessly at my television, and I wept.
The Pope’s plight made me think a bit harder about the case of Terri Schiavo and what I think about all that. I grieve for her, also. I am glad she is at peace now, but the manner of her passing appalls me. I think removal of a feeding tube to let someone starve to death and ultimately die of thirst is barbaric. If we in this country are going to allow such a choice to be made by a family, we ought to be prepared to ease the way. Perhaps there was nothing left of her in her damaged mind. I don’t know, and I doubt any of us will ever know for sure. Perhaps it was a mercy to let her go.
But then again, John Paul has shown the world that there is dignity in suffering. There is value in all life, no matter how frail and debilitated. There is worth in all levels of human existence, and sometimes those who cannot speak are most eloquent in their silence.
I don’t know. I don’t know exactly what I think about all that. I just know that tonight, my heart is heavy for a woman who died an unnecessarily pubic and inhumane death, for Theresa, whose mother is so very ill, and for the Holy Father who will soon go home to God. I think it is not so much for him that I grieve – I’m sure he will be happy to be freed of his failing body. I must admit I’m being a bit selfish. I think I grieve most for the Church. These are difficult days for the Church, and I think a lot of us feel worried and somewhat rudderless.
In a strange way, I miss him. I miss him already. I wish I’d had the chance to see him, to go to Rome, or to go to one of the World Youth Days. I very much doubt we’ll have such a remarkable Pope again during my lifetime.
I feel very much alone tonight. Alone in this grief that I cannot entirely explain and that I do not entirely understand. Our Holy Father is dying, and I’m alone and a bit afraid and just so very sad.