I got a call this morning; it was Agnes who needed to talk. In the message she stated she was having an anxiety attack. So I called her and we talked for awhile. She is seeing her doctor today at 1 p.m. for the final prognosis of her cancer. Which does not seem to be good, for it is already in her brain, lymph nodes and stomach, so over the last year her internist mentioned that is has spread very fast. Last year she got a clean bill of health cancer-wise. She has to decide if she wants to attempt chemo or simply go into Hospice as her internist advised her to do, for she lives alone.

So her day is going to be a heavy one, frightful, and she feels all alone. She mentioned to me that some of her friends whom she called have not called her back. I told her to not be too hard on them since many people don’t know how to react to such news and it brings up some of their own unconscious fears of death and disease. She is angry of course and I encouraged her to not be afraid of the emotion, to let it out, pray it through for she is already transparent before God, so to just be herself before God.

As we talked, I told her that I loved her and even though we had our ups and downs, and that I did not always understand her (she laughed when I said that), I would always be there for her to the best of my ability. Also to let me know if I say something that offends her or pushes her in ways she does not want to go. To not wait a few days before she tells me, for she is going though enough as it is, so to please be blunt with me, it will not affect our relationship.

I have worked with a lot of people who were dying in the past. Yet they were always older than me and it was simply a part of my job; though I loved doing it. However she is only a few years older than me and we have been in contact off an on for the last 20 years, so this is closer to home for me.

I can have compassion for her, but since I have not yet entered the territory that she is traversing she needs to understand that at times I may not understand the depth of her emotions and to please be patient with me. I am human and have very deep limitations when it comes to having empathy for others.

So I pray for her and I am mourning in a way I have never done before. How deep I do not know, for our relationship has really been me as a caregiver of some sort, for her emotional life is bumpy to say the least and has caused her much suffering over the years.

Also I tend not to be deeply in touch with many of my emotions, a very slow growth process for me. Yes she is with Christ in Gethsemane, asking that the cup be taken away, yet most likely it will not be, a place were many will find themselves at some point in their lives. For we are pilgrims after all moving toward our point of departure.

(Below is a poem that brings out some of my catholis spriturality, so for those who don’t like that sort of thing, a friendly warning)

A child

Like a child she is when she talks; “I am so afraid she says”, all I can say is:

“I know Agnes, I know”,

then she says, “I am so angry” and I say,

“I understand Agnes, I understand”

(There is a stirring in my soul not there before; so perhaps I am becoming a child also after all these years, dealing with mystery does that, what greater mystery is there than the death of a friend)

“Pray” I say, “Christ is united with you, you are in Gethsemane, the chalice you may have to drink”, She replies, “I know, Oh God I know”. “I feel alone” she says,“

“I know Agnes I know”

my return comment unable to give comfort: “God is with you your feelings and emotions real, Yet God is with you”.

“Be yourself, express yourself Agnes, allow whatever needs to arise to surface, this is an important time, hard, lonely, perhaps isolating in some ways, but you are being drawn into a deep mystery; just do not despair of God’s love, the most sure thing there is.

God is always yes.

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Mark Dohle

Mark Dohle

I am 62 years old and have lived in the Atlanta area since 1971.  I am Catholic and my faith is important to me, yet as I age the mystery continues to deepen, so I read broadly and try to keep things somewhat open ended. I work with the aged and the dying. I was in the Navy for four years and I guess I am life of center when it comes to politics, but not too far left. Actually, I am kind of a political moron.

I am the third of  11 children; ten still alive, one died in in 1958, three days after birth.