Wednesday greetings from the Midwest, where it has warmed up considerably. It is in the low 30's.
"Come, Lord Jesus."
Each Advent, my thoughts turn to the late 1990's and early 2000's. My late sister Joanne, who died in 2001 from complications brought on by multiple sclerosis, was in her declining years and her quality of life had become quite diminished.
For those living with terminal illness and for family members who accompany them along this painful road, Advent can be a difficult time, perhaps even more difficult than Christmas. I remember going to Mass each week and singing my "Maranatha's," and my "O Come, O Come Emmanuel's," and listening to the choir singing Paul Manz's "E'en So, Lord Jesus, Quickly Come." Watching a loved one struggling with the pain of illness as death approaches makes these Advent lyrics all the more poignant. I remember well the last Advent of Joanne's final year with us. I was singing these texts with a mixture of anger and frustration. I wanted the Lord to come for her. I wanted her pain to cease. I wanted the pain of my family members watching her decline to simply stop.
I remember saying to the Lord, "Enough! Just come now, Emmanuel, Lord, Prince of Peace, some now and bring us all peace."
Of course, I knew somewhere deep inside that the Lord would come for Joanne. I was just frustrated that it wasn't according to my schedule.
I had very little time alone with my sister in her final days. We were all keeping vigil and, with a large family, there were always many of us in her room. But one day, while she was still conscious, I had just a little time with her as we waited for a priest to come and bring her communion. I crawled into the bed next to her and asked if she wanted to sing with me. She really had no voice by then, but her eyes widened and she nodded in agreement. So "we" sang Do You Hear What I Hear?. And then we sang O Come, All Ye Faithful. It was just about then that the priest appeared with our mom and dad to bring Joanne communion.
I told them that Joanne and I had been practicing the music for our little communion service. They looked at us as if we were off our rockers.
So, I laid down next to my sister and as the little service began we started to sing the refrain "O come, let us adore him, O come, let us adore him, O come, let us adore him, Christ the Lord." My voice was soft and Joanne moved her lips "singing" each word. Joanne was unable to eat or drink in those last days, so we all shared in her final communion by consuming the Lord by her side.
I still cannot get through that Christmas carol at Mass to this day.
Please know, especially if you are living with a terminal disease or are accompanying a loved one on the final journey, that there are many, like my family and me, who have walked this road. Let us all pray in these final days of Advent that the Lord will come, in whatever way and at whatever time, to bring grace and peace. "O come, let us adore him."
Gotta sing. Gotta pray.