This early into the New Year, we are all still excited about our workouts, organizing projects, and fabulous new healthy lifestyle choices. So, I’d just like to take a moment as your friendly juice cleanse buzzkill to say:
“Keep death daily before your eyes.”
Now, doesn’t that make us all feel better? It really should.
This wisdom of the spiritual masters, as articulated by St. Benedict in his Rules, comes to me today on the 2nd anniversary of my brother’s death. Paul Christopher Jarod Mader lived 8 of his 30 years with a brain cancer time bomb between his ears and taught me more than anyone else about how to keep death daily before my eyes.
He was and will always be my most unsuspecting evangelist.
He was a private guy, not prone to over-piety or even religious obligation. But, in his last days, he would repeatedly ask for Jesus. “Has Father brought me Communion yet?” was a refrain. It is remarkable how death, so close in one’s sights, can clarify what and Who is important.
He was independent, flying alone monthly to avail himself of trials and therapies at a treatment center hundreds of miles from home. But, in those last days, he allowed us to surround him and serve him in the most childlike and humble ways. I watched my mother feed him and bathe him. My father shave and clothe him. My sister clip his nails and lotion his hands and feet. My brothers carry him and play the chords on his guitar so that he could strum a bit longer.
With death daily before our eyes, we were given an entire education in virtue.
We learned self-forgetful love that counts no cost. We observed what holy submission truly is. And we experienced the purest hope which came, curiously, when the miracles we had longed for were replaced with ones we never expected. We cheered for every small victory and consolation in his suffering because it was packed with so much thanksgiving.
One afternoon, just a couple of weeks before he died, we decided to spring him from the hospital (for a field trip). We moved him from his bed to a wheelchair, tucked as many blankets as we could find around him, and wrapped his dog’s leash to his hand.
I smile remembering the ridiculous scene of the the parade of us whizzing past the nurses’ station and front door security of the hospital (they were kind enough to not see us) into the cold winter air outside.
With an IV drip trailing behind us and wet snow piles all around, our hearts were bursting as we pushed him to a coffee shop and through a park. He said he wanted to stand up and walk. We lifted and buttressed him and he put one foot in front of the other to the sound of love that goes in your ears and echoes in your heart like when a baby takes his first step.
I cannot write for you the kind of joy we got to experience with him in the saddest of times. But, I can tell you that it was because death was literally daily before our eyes. And that changes everything. Let it.
16 thoughts on “Memento”
So well said. May his sweet soul soar with Christ today and always.❤️
Beautiful Franchelle. Brought tears to my eyes. What a needed reminder.
Thank you, Jennifer. . .and thank you for being such a good friend to my sister during those days (and these, too!).
My heart both hurts for and sings for yours as you both grieve for and rejoice for your brother’s soul! Love you, sweet friend! Beautiful tribute and reminder!
Thank you, my friend. Jesus formed us for a long time for this cross of grief and has given us so many consolations in seeing His mercy.
Thank you Franchelle. What a beautiful, beautiful post.
Thank you, Marie.
The month before my 10th wedding anniversary, my sister-in-law’s sister died. We knew her and her husband. She was only 36. They had been high school sweethearts. She had a great impact on me by her death. First, because I realized that “till death do us part” might not be old age. I needed to appreciate every day today. And second, because there were no stories of how she changed her priorities when she got sick. She already had them in place!
Praise Jesus that He knows so perfectly how and when to call each of us to Himself. As a sinner myself and one whose priorities are still in need of ordering, I am so grateful for His patience and unfathomable mercy.
Bless him and bless you all.
Thank you. . .and bless you. Our loved ones who are now gazing into the face of Jesus are never very far.
Beautiful and touching story.
Beautiful how God’s light shines even during the darkness of death! What an inspiring testimony – thank you for sharing.
I’m not sure I can adequately express in words how timely this post was and how deeply it spoke to me when I read it Friday. Thank you Fran for helping me see clearly & lean more on our Father. & Thank you Tracy too. Bellator Society is doing amazing things! Love y’all! Thank y’all! ❤️
Love you, Candice. . .and praying for you. Jesus is so good to give us each other.