A little while ago I had some symptoms which indicated a real possibility that I had a fatal disease. You will, I hope, be glad to hear that the symptoms resolved themselves, and I am fine. However, for a day or two, I was faced by a prospect which has given me a degree of insight. I did not want at that stage to tell my wife, so I was left with my own thoughts.
The first issue was whether or not I should go for a cure or leave the illness to take its course. It came as a surprise to me that, subject to much information which I did not have, I was tempted towards the second possibility. I have had a longer life than many and have no particular desire to stay indefinitely in this vale of tears.
While I considered my wife in all of this, I happen to know that she feels the same way about herself. A naughty thought was that my children (who are very good to me in these matters) would certainly benefit from an early inheritance. More practically, I would be able to get financial matters into comprehensible order, and instruct my wife in some technical household issues she has never had to master.
But, more importantly, I was much relieved by the thought that I would have quite enough time to prepare for death. There would be no likelihood of my sliding into dementia, depriving me of the power to use my free will. And I had a reduced risk of sudden death through an accident or a sudden heart attack. I would have the time I needed to prepare – Last Sacraments and all. Indeed, having done my Nine First Fridays, the promised gift of grace at my deathbed would surely be available.
Of course, before you tell me so, I shouldn’t need all of this. As a good Christian Catholic I should always be ready to meet the thief who comes in the night. I have no right to claim an opportunity to prepare. I cannot rely on William Camden’s (16th cent) hope “Betwixt the stirrup and the ground, mercy I sought and mercy I found”. But sadly my life is patchy, and there is always much to do.
I wonder whether any of you have had the same experience of the potential proximity of death. And, if so, has your reaction been the same or different from mine? And if you have not yet had such an experience, do you nevertheless keep yourself prepared for death? Or do you continue merrily on your way – confident that it will all be OK in the end?