There is no doubt death is a part of living; that final stage as we move from life on this earth to eternity. Our hope and prayer, realized in Jesus Christ, is that lovingly created by God who is all powerful and all merciful we will be lovingly greeted by the saints and angels and gifted with eternal life in the presence of God. And though we have all succumbed to sin throughout our lives, we believe that we need only to humble ourselves, ask for forgiveness and promise to do better for our sins to be forgiven. The beauty of our faith in Jesus Christ is that it culminates in eternal life that surpasses all the love and joy that we can imagine.
Recently ten members of St. Francis Xavier BeFrienders attended a lecture by Dr. Ira Byok who presented what he believes, after more than 40 years as a physician, are the four most important things to do at the end of life. His presentation was informative, humorous at times, and filled with wisdom. After working in private practice and emergency medicine his experiences drew him to hospice and palliative care. He shared his desire to assist those who were at the end of life to die well. What he offered were eleven words which he would share with his patients, not as a command or a “should”, but in a loving way he would encourage them to think about these words as they “put their lives in order” upon learning that their time here on this earth was short.
These are the eleven words:
I forgive you.
Please forgive me.
I love you.
Four simple and direct phrases, eleven simple words that call us to a task that can be daunting; to make right or repair our wrongs and to forgive those who have wronged us. It is actually what we pray as we pray the Our Father. We ask for God’s forgiveness AS WE forgive those who sin against us.
Dr. Byok shared a quote from the famous comedian Lilly Tomlin regarding forgiveness: “Forgiving is giving up all hope for a better past.” Think about that. To truly forgive someone is about letting go of what happened in the past and realizing that it is not possible to return to the past or to change it. It is what it is. But when our time with loved ones is short, it may be the best medicine for the dying person and for all who love or have loved them to forgive and to accept forgiveness from one another. The “I’m sorry” is your means of doing better with the time you have left. And of course, the “I love you” seals the deal and allows the dying and those who love them to exist as God intended; at peace and in love. Jesus taught us the most important of all messages from God: Love God, and love your neighbor [and certainly your family] as you love yourself.
Some might be thinking it will never work because the person I need to say this to will not listen. Dr. Byok reminded us that we can only be responsible for our side of any relationship. We may not be met with forgiveness and a returned “I love you”, but we cannot risk the opportunity to make that effort before our time here on this earth is done. We do not need to wait until those final moments, let us all pray for the wisdom and the courage to act now to forgive ourselves and others in hope of mended relationships and years of shared love, joy and peace.
With much hope,
He Would Love First!
October 24, 2020
A July Faith Formation Series – Part IV – APOSTOLIC