I am not referring to the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ song Other Side. Nope, I am talking about dying.
I’ve had nausea and stomach issues for over a week, I have weird postnasal drip which chokes me when I’m in the wheelchair or at the computer. It makes difficult the writing of the blogs and the emails. It also makes it hard to breathe.
In addition, I’m surrounded by so much sadness. My brother in law’s mother died, my friend John, too. Others are sick and suffering. And the world is divided into two major factions at war with each other. I’m overwhelmed. My Facebook feed is full of completely opposite opinions. The news is lying to me and biased. The Catholic hierarchy are mostly in disarray. Seriously, it’s easier to find the good ones than list all the bad ones. There is chaos, and people are choosing immediate gratification. We are at the collapse of the Roman Empire again, worldwide. I have said it many times, history matters!
I’ll be straight with you, Reader-land, my spiritual life is backsliding and I feel it. Combined with the new developments with my ALS, I’m starting to get tired. You know what I did over my Christmas break? I wrote letters to my kids for after I die, and prepared instructions for Mel so she can get on top of the passwords and who to call for my retirement checks and life insurance, etc. It’s not a fun job, and less fun for Mel. (Can I ask a favor from Elena and Lauren, can you help Mel with it? She’s going to need help and your support.) I spent my Christmas thinking about death. How delightfully macabre.
But in my morbid thoughts, I had a bit of Scripture pop into my head, and I whined it out, “How long, O Lord?” How long do I have to endure? I am weary, and I look for release. When my dad brings me Holy Communion, one of the prayers is for people who have grown bitter from suffering. That’s me.
Oh, but God gave me an answer really fast. On Facebook, someone asked why suffering was a blessing and without thinking I typed in a response which was the answer to my question. My second favorite podcast, the Lanky Guys, have talked about this many times. This podcast breaks down scripture and gives the context of the writings, which I can’t recommend enough. If you don’t know the context, you won’t understand ninety percent of the Bible.
Anyway, what came into my head was the end of the book of Job, when even Job is wondering about God. Scott Powell brings it up often enough for his voice to echo in my head. Beginning in chapter 38, and boy howdy. Emphasis mine.
1 Then the Lord[a] answered Job out of the storm and said:
2 Who is this who darkens counsel
with words of ignorance?
3 Gird up your loins[b] now, like a man;
I will question you, and you tell me the answers!
4 Where were you when I founded the earth?
Tell me, if you have understanding.
5 Who determined its size? Surely you know?
Who stretched out the measuring line for it?
6 Into what were its pedestals sunk,
and who laid its cornerstone,
7 While the morning stars sang together
and all the sons of God[c] shouted for joy?
God goes on like this, and doesn’t answer Job’s question. He instead says, Who are you to question me? If you made everything, then tell me. But you are not Me, and My ways are far beyond your understanding! Now sit down and listen! A very serious smackdown and I don’t think modern man is hearing this enough. You are suffering? Who are you to question God’s plan? You want to reshape the Catholic Church? Who are you to question what God has founded? Seriously, the last few chapters of Job should be mandatory reading for when we get our god complexes and think we know better. Chapter 40 is even more so!
1 The Lord then answered Job and said:
2 Will one who argues with the Almighty be corrected?
Let him who would instruct God give answer!
It’s also a stunning rebuke to me, who am complaining about my suffering. The Book of Job, Reader-land, it is a gem!
You’d think that would be enough to make me shut up, right? But my “how long?” kept lingering in the air. You know what it’s from? Isaiah chapter 6, one of my favorites. Isaiah has volunteered and is commissioned to give dire prophecies to Israel, which they won’t listen to. Then he asks,
11 “How long, O Lord?” I asked. And he replied:
[h] Until the cities are desolate,
Houses, without people,
and the land is a desolate waste.
12 Until the Lord sends the people far away,
and great is the desolation in the midst of the land.
13 If there remain a tenth part in it,
then this in turn shall be laid waste;
As with a terebinth or an oak
whose trunk remains when its leaves have fallen.[i]
Holy offspring is the trunk.
Ok, this one hit even harder. Because I consider this to be a description of what I will go through before I die, and I am not prepared for it. It could also be what modern society is going to go through, and I don’t think we are prepared! Isaiah chapter 6, Reader-land, what a gem!
So these upbeat topics have been on my mind. I still haven’t finished my letters or instructions, and I don’t have a good idea of how I am doing. But at least I have an answer that God put in the Bible for me, and that is an encouraging thought.
I hope you all had wonderful holidays and that you receive God’s blessing this year! I’m praying for Reader-land!
30 thoughts on “How long?”
God Bless you , Joe. I pray for you and your family daily. Thank you so much for your posts. You have no idea how much you have helped me spiritually. I am grateful to be part of “Reader -Land”.
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thank you Ann!
My sweet friend you don’t know how many lives you have touched.Yes,suffering has merit.I don’t always handle mine as I should.We were meant for Eternity not this world.I will pray for you and I hope that you will pray for me.I am sending my Guardian Angel to give you a spiritual hug.
“What’s comin’ will come, an’ we’ll meet it when it does.” or as Hagrid says in the movie version “Storm’s comin’, Harry.”
I, too, am proud to be in the Reader-Land of this blog. Sometimes I don’t respond because I am just too overwhelmed with sadness and grief. I am already grieving your passing, Joe. And we don’t even know each other, we’re just two ships, passing via the internet. But I’m sad because you’ve taught me so much and continue to, and I want you to live and yet, and yet…..you are who you are, and you have these insights only because of your dying, and that, I think, is what you’re saying here. It’s part of God’s plan and we see the knots and messy threads and the colors are all mixed because it’s the BACK of the tapestry we see. If only we could get around and see the front! May we meet in heaven one day, my friend. Know that people are praying for you when you can’t. And someday future people will pray for me when I can’t, and the chain goes so forth, unbroken. Prayer is powerful. May God give you all the mental energy and strength you need to finish what you need to finish. And may your passing be peaceful and not fearful, and may the angels come to meet you, and all your friends and ancestors, and of course God, Jesus, Holy Spirit, Mary, St. Joseph and all the saints.
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thank you! it’s true that scripture isn’t something that is far gone, the Word of God is everlasting. And I definitely don’t understand it, not yet!
We were at a wedding last night, and at one point I was in a conversation with several people who were all sharing how your example and reading your blog had impacted us in a most powerful and lasting way…. truly it has been a blessing to be part of reader land. With daily prayers for you and your loved ones,
Blessed to know you, Joe, and praying daily.
Ellen, you’ve spoken for all of us
May God (and all of the church triumphant, every angel, every saint) be with you🙏🙏 🙏
I am a friend of Teresa’s from Franciscan U and I lost my dad to ALS. She reached out to me and told me your story. I understand a bit, from the “child” standpoint, having gone through it, but no two stories are the same. You and your family are in my prayers…dad found a lot of solace in “the fulfillment of all desire” by Ralph Martin. But, do what brings you peace and know you are surrounded by God’s love.
thank you! I can’t imagine how hard it was for you and your family! I think having the disease is easier than caregiving!
Joe, you are an inspiration to all of us in our spiritual journey and life. Thank you for your insight and and honesty. Our prayers are with you, Mel and the children! Xxxxx
thank you! we feel your prayers!
thank you deidre! I hope all is well and you enjoyed family over the holidays
Joe, It’s true; Ellen has spoken for all of us. I have faith that your preparations will be more than thorough for Mel and the children. And, please don’t forget to write letters for your parents and siblings, if possible.
In these stressful times, I have a special request. Could you share with us a happy thought, image, meditation or memory that you turn to for comfort in times of distress? Or is there a protocol that you follow at such times to recapture your composure and peace of mind?
Still sending prayers for you all.
thank you! I will have to think and get back to you for this
“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” We are not made for this world but for eternity. You are saving so many souls with your suffering and your love. There is so much grace flowing, torrents of love and grace flowing from your every “yes Lord”. Even the “yes Lords” that are filled with agony, pain, questioning, anger, frustration, discouragement. You give hope to others as you live your Calvary and cruxifiction. I beg Our Lord, Our dear loving Mother and Padre Pio to give you respite and relief.
thank you! but I’m just a whiner!
Sending love to you and your beautiful family.
Joe, you are an inspiration! We keep praying for you, Mel, and the kids! Thank you for sharing all of your thoughts!
Joe, I was reading your blog yesterday and the simplest biblical phrase of the day, on the solemnity of the Epiphany, rang in my ears… “The glory of God shines upon you…” Without doubt His glory shines brilliantly upon you! How else would it be possible for you to continue to minister (yes, minister) to your family and to reader-land in your condition.
From a reader-lander, I want you to know how much I appreciate your candid and often passionate discussions; sometimes with tongue in cheek, sometimes a tear, and sometimes an enlightened thought. You have certainly helped me.
Thus far, you have impacted many lives that otherwise might not have had the advantage or privilege of sharing such a difficult and long walk with someone. May I say, not only sharing, but actually practicing the walk. Of course, foremost, I hope we help steady YOUR walk!
God must love you very, very much as you continue to be His faithful servant. God’s loving arms are already stretched out to you and He will cradle you. Surely, heaven awaits you and I fervently pray that you, Mel, your children, your parents, sisters and brother and theiri families all be together one day in His presence; (in his presence which we cannot even imagine)!!! Thank you for helping us by sharing your journey with Reader-land. We are all destined for eternal life. You are awesome and we are blessed. Will watch for your next post when you are feeling up to it.
No matter what suffering my mom was enduring – loneliness , aches and pains or any ailments of friends , she would invariably say. – Well it’s nothing compared to what Joe (you) are going through. And it wasn’t, and isn’t.
But we look to the cross. I know you do too.
To readerland – Joe brings and has brought pure joy to our lives. Joe lights up a room. A light in the darkness. Passion – as I’m sure you know – exudes from his pores. Not enough room here to write all the things we love about Joe.
We are praying for you in your final trial.
Hang tough. And tell my mother we said hi when you see her.
No matter how much time you have left go into the unknown knowing that you have touched many lives for the better. From work to your family to friends and readers of your blog, you have touched us all, for the better. I have had friends and family die sudden deaths and lingering ones. Which is worse is hard to say. Sudden ones are shocking and lingering ones are hard to watch. But, your and a friends acceptance of the trip to the end is inspiring. God bless you and your family. Wish I could hear your voice shouting out one of those silly jokes again.
Joe and Melanie – thank you for your example and for sharing your experience, both good and bad. We are praying for you both.
Thank you! this was very well written 🙂