Sometimes we experience the supernatural mingling with the natural. The hand of God reaching from eternity into time and space, touching us directly. Or the whispering rustle of evil, like dry leaves swirling behind us on a dark street.
Bodily death, the Catechism tells us, is the last enemy of man left to be conquered.
As I sit in the hospital room, my mom hooked up to machines and breathing painfully, the nurse asks: What are her end of life wishes? I know what her wishes are, I think to myself. She wants to be with her beloved husband of 64 years. But these wishes may not be God’s will just yet. If God had wanted to call her home, he would have. Is there still some work to do? What work can she do from this hospital bed?
And when the evening comes, and the busy world is hushed, and the fever of life is over, and our work is done…
I am staying at my mom’s house, when I wake suddenly in the middle of the night. I hear the automated phone box repeating: power failure; please connect power source. I look outside and see the horizon glowing red. I think (because I have an over-active imagination): nuclear holocaust! Then I open the back door, the door that opens out to the mountains, the dry brush, the desert sage.
And I smell the fire.
I want to check the news, but I can’t. I hunt down flashlights as the fire grows bigger, closer.
I pack a bag for my mom and wonder how I will get the car out of the garage with the power out.
I gather some of my mom’s original paintings: the most valuable items (to me) in the house.
My dwelling, like a shepherd’s tent, is struck down and borne away from me; you have folded up my life, like a weaver who severs the last thread. (Isaiah 38:12)
I wait and watch until the early morning when I see the police cars coming to evacuate everyone in our neighborhood. I learn that the fire, which eventually burns more than 2,000 acres, is eating up my beloved Bartley Ranch, where I run.
I have my mom’s bag, my back pack, and the paintings.
“In my thoughts, a fire blazed up…Lord, let me know my end, the number of my days, that I may know how frail I am!” (Psalm 39).
I head for the hospital and tell my mom about the fire: “You sure were lucky you were in the hospital,” I exclaim. That’s a bit over the top, since she just had a massive stroke, but we can be grateful for small blessings.
God knows what he is about, wrote Cardinal Newman.
I pray for my mom and for me, his prayer:
O Lord, support us all the day long, until the shadows lengthen, and the evening comes, and the busy world is hushed, and the fever of life is over, and our work is done. Then in your mercy, grant us a safe lodging and a holy rest, and peace at the last.