If you are looking for my blog titled, The Contemplative Catholic Convert, you are at the right spot.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

A Different Kind of Death

This is adapted from an essay appearing in my second book, Lessons Along the Journey.

Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26).

From time to time I see an elderly man who attends the same 10:00 Mass as I. I’ve never spoken with him. He sits on the other side of the sanctuary and is usually making his way toward the exit during the final song.

The first time I saw him, I thought I’d seen my wife’s stepfather returned from the dead. The man resembles Cy so closely. And because of the remarkable resemblance, my thoughts went back last Sunday to one of the last times Cy and I were together.

Cyril James Farrell died peacefully in bed on April 29, 2005, five months before his 90th birthday.

It could have been a different kind of death.

Throughout his working career, Cyril was a fiercely competitive salesman with little time for family, and even less time for God.

Quick-tempered, opinionated and a no-nonsense kind of guy, Cy told you what he thought, even if it wasn't polite or kind – and it often wasn’t. He found fault with strangers, circumstances, and family. I didn’t like being around him when he got into one of his moods.

Many of us know the passage of years often solidifies a person’s bad patterns. But for some people, life-events can have the opposite effect. That's what happened to Cy.

In his mid-seventies, his legs began to hurt so badly he couldn’t walk more than a few yards without stopping to rest. Following two fruitless surgeries, the once determined and vigorous man was forced into a wheelchair. In his last months, he couldn’t get out of bed without help.

Although baptized as a child and he attended Mass with his parents, by the time he joined the army, he’d left his childhood faith behind. It was not until he was 85 and sick did he recognize, as if for the first time, why Jesus died.

Jesus died for him.

And with that recognition, Cy surrendered his life completely to the Lord Jesus.

Imperceptibly to those who saw him every day, Cy began to change. And those who'd known him as long as I, knew the change was extraordinary. Despite his loss of health and strength, I never heard him complain or find fault, except to say about his legs, "Isn't that the craziest thing? They don't work anymore like they used to."

Judging from the remarks of those who attended his funeral, no one else heard him grumble, either. They simply remembered him as a man who always met others with a patient spirit, a ready smile, and a kind word.

More than 300 white-haired friends showed up at the church to commemorate his life. Many more wanted to come, but lived too far away, or were too frail to travel. I believe they loved the man in the coffin because Cyril James Farrell left a legacy worthy of a Christian – a legacy that attests to the grace, mercy and patience of our heavenly Father who stays with us, year after year, waiting for His prodigals to come home.

I know why Cyril James Farrell died in peace. It was because he died in the arms of his Savior.

It could have been a different kind of death.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The power of the Holy Spirit works in wonderous ways.