While others are ringing in the new year with friends and fun, I sit with a heavy heart.
My grandfather is dying.
The days have run into each other–my memories blurred by images of doctors and conversations of pneumonia, infection, then cancer. I’ve gone through each day in a daze, not knowing the date or time, just knowing that the loved ones around me are hurting. My emotions have spanned from numbness to anger to sorrow…and back again. I am lost. For once, I have nothing to say, no comfort to give, except open arms, which I freely offer.
Then today, it came. Not a change in prognosis. Not some medical breakthrough. A moment of peace. A moment of calm, breaking through the internal chaos that had invaded my mind.
Where did this peace come from? What did I see to invoke such a feeling of comfort?
More specifically, this kind of collar:
See, I have gotten to know some really great men who wear these collars. They have given me spiritual direction, heard my confessions, given counsel in times of trouble, and helped me grow in my personal relationship with God. On a personal level, my family has gotten to know and love some of these “men in black, ” as I affectionately call them. Their lives have been beautiful reminders of God’s love, each of them being special, unique individuals, each of them teaching different lessons. So, when I see a collar, I don’t just think, “Oh, look–it’s a priest.” When I see a collar, I smile and a warmth fills my heart.
I needed warmth today, and as the short, round priest walked into the room–holding a bible under his arm–I instantly felt a wave of comfort. For the first time in days, there was something bright in the otherwise grim ICU waiting room. Moments later, we were ushered into my grandfather’s room and gathered around his bed. With a softness in his eyes, and the soothing sound of his voice, the priest began to give my grandfather his Last Rites.
Once finished, there was a feeling of sadness, but also a feeling of completion. The priest was finished with his work, and my grandfather was now set. His proverbial bags are packed, and he is equipped to meet our Maker. I will miss him, but I feel he is ready. And, as sorrowful as I may be, I need to remember that this isn’t about me. It’s not my journey, it’s his. After all, death is just the beginning.
I may actually sleep tonight.
And I owe it all to a collar.