Making The Last Weeks “Count”


Make the last weeks count…

One of the most distinctive traits of Anglo-Saxon societies – seen with the eyes of a Southerner – is the obsession with strange events and experiences.

Not only marriages must be celebrated in the stupidest places – on the beach, on aeroplanes, on bungee-jumping bridges, and the like – but apparently nowadays even marriage proposals must be the apex of an “experience” travel, or of some extraordinary event.

Nothing is sacred anymore. But everything must be exciting.

I will be, for once in my life, blunt and tell you that I find this entire attitude very superficial, a rather childish escape from reality, and far from the very serious business of what was, once, supposed to be a commitment for life. Which is on par with the fact that all too often it just isn’t.

This superficiality and cheap escapism is best seen in modern funerals. They are, nowadays, often not even called such; are very heavily slanted on the “celebration” of the wonderful, unique, utterly breathtaking qualities of the departed and, in a word, witness the huge effort of modern man to remove the thought of death even when he smashes his face against it.

It seems to me that this very same mentality is slowly but surely extending to terminally ill people. You read more and more often of the most childish, superficial events staged for people who are dying; as if for a person who has only weeks left such events were, or had the right to be, of any meaningful importance.

If a person is, say, a fan of the “Iron Man” movies, a smartphone message from Christian Bale will not really give him any satisfaction if he is older than, say, eight and a half years; and probably not even then.

I will be very counter-cultural here, and say that the last weeks of one’s life are made by God for one purpose: prayer, and preparation to death.

If God gives me the great blessing – wait, let me repeat it in bold: great blessing – of some weeks or months of preparation before I kick the bucket I truly, truly want to hope that I will not waste them in the stupid pursuit of some earthly goal now without any sensible importance, but as investment in the future life, and with the utmost, most moved gratitude for being allowed to prepare carefully for the most important, – nay: the only important; nay, the only! – real task of my life: salvation.

It is not only that I hope I would do this because of the infinite prize at stake – the gaining of Purgatory -; but it is also that I am fully persuaded that to dedicate the last weeks, or months, to intense prayer would give me an interior serenity, a confident hope, and a robust and joyful expectation of my future life vastly surpassing every fulfilment of some more or less childish, and now certainly irrelevant, desire I might experience when it does not really make any sense anymore.

“I always wanted to get an autograph of Iron Man/Christian Bale before I die”, says the ill man, and does not understand that perhaps it’s time to leave all these things behind, and focus on more important things. But then some friend or relative will go on Facebook and mount one of those emotional frenzies until someone gets to Christian Bale’s number, or he is informed via social media. What can the man do, but to please the mob? There comes the autographed photo, duly scanned, and the  very warm video message. Countless girlies start screaming in excitement. Everyone feels good. Everyone’s a winner. The chap will be dead in a matter of week, but: boy, isn’t this exciting; and aren’t we a bunch of wonderful people, frantically removing our fear of death….

“But Mundabor” – you might say – “one can have the autograph and pray the prayers!”

Yes, he can. But one must seriously wonder where his priorities lie, if even in dying he is so attached to what now are no more than child’s whims. Similarly, all those who get excited for such exercises must wonder what their real attitude towards death and judgment is, with my take being: superficiality, self-centred feel-goodism, or utter denial. Possibly, no faith in eternal life, too.

Make the last weeks of a dying person count. Stay with him for as long as you can, pray with him, talk to him about the Great Prize, cry with him tears of love and consolation, accompany him on these important steps to the all-important aim. If he does not believe, pray twice and – in charity and with prudence – encourage, instruct, warn him, find him a priest, and in case a calm, patient, resolute priest! If you ask me, this is the real “moral support”, not the latest child’s toy before he dies.

Reflect whether anyone of you can imagine one of those severe grandmothers of old who, on their death bed, expressed a desire to get an autographed photo of Humphrey Bogart, or a private screening of Casablanca! 

They knew the time of earthly caprices was up, and it was now time to prepare to heaven.

Modern generations think rather of what expensive toy they might get, or what strange experience they might have, before they die.




Posted on May 20, 2014, in Catholicism, Conservative Catholicism, Traditional Catholicism and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 14 Comments.

  1. Extremely well said, Mundabor. I couldn’t agree more.

  2. prudentissima

    There is a wonderful book by Mother Mary Potter : Devotion for the Dying. Catholic has some excerpts. It is a treasure. It makes one pray to have someone in the state of grace with you to pray. I cannot recommend it enough. Lovely post.

  3. I like the old fashioned Catholic way you deal with the dying person, which is much like the description of a person dying from my 1950 ‘s first grade religion book,with a priest present , and a conscious elderly patient.Priests are not so likely to be present these days, even in a hospital, so it is more essential than ever to remain prepared to die, whatever age you happen to be.

    I think the need for fantasy and also for excitement is based on the loss of the transcendent in the sacraments, loss of prayer and study of the life , works, and even mystical experiences of the saints and various related loses brought about by the Protestant reformation.

    • I agree.

      When the faith goes out, the circus gets in.


    • Wonderful post. Before my grandmother passed away last year my mom, cousin and I were at her bedside praying (she was very weak and sleeping more and more). She woke up and when we asked what her favorite prayer was, so we could all pray together, she said “I want to go to Mass, it has been too long, I just want to go to Mass”. We immediately called for a priest. The next day when I went to see her I was told that again that morning when she awoke she kept saying over and over “I just want to go to Mass” . Those were the last words she spoke and she passed 2 days later. It brought me so much peace knowing her thoughts were on Our Lord and the yearning she had to be in His presence. I pray that my last words echo hers.

    • Another beautiful story.
      To use an expression I hate: “thanks for sharing”.


  4. St Alphonsus Liguori’s “Preparation for Death” is an amazing book. We should all have to read it, to help align our priorities.

    My Italian father-in-law passed away in December of lung cancer that spread to his brain. For the last two years, whenever something hurt him, he would say “Madonna”. Even when he forgot our names, “Madonna” still was called.

    We kept him at home with the help of hospice, and when it got difficult and he would say call Our Lady, I would make it a point to offer the whole Hail Mary for him.

    He wasn’t an educated man, but he had always worn a scapular even though he probably didn’t know why, or that the image was of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Well, we had not had a scapular on him for a couple of months because he would pull at things and was generally uncomfortable. A friend of mine cornered me at our children’s Friday homeschool group and asked if he wore a scapular. I told her that he had, but not lately since he had been so fidgety, she made me promise to put it on him that night. He was now mostly unresponsive, so I did.

    Monday night, he “woke up” and was trying to tell us something. It didn’t sound to me like English or Italian, and I quickly told my mother-in-law to come in. She told him to calm down, what are you saying? He said three times. La Madonna di Carmello, La Madonna di Carmello, La Madonna do Carmello.

    She said, “you have her, you have your scapular, and if she is here please go to her!” Mundabor, I could’ve hit the floor, she had been in denial for so long. Then he said her nickname, “Assuntina” three times.

    And then he asked for the baked apples that the neighbor had brought over and told the man, who appeared sleeping, that when he got hungry to wake up and eat her apples.

    He passed away the next evening. But we were all there with him, we had time to pray over him litanies, rosaries, divine mercy chaplets. What blessings we all received, such graces, such a happy death.

    I’m sorry to write such a personal experience. If you don’t post it I will understand. But I just want you to know that I completely agree with you. Pray for what’s important. Align your priorities. My children’s grandfather helped to teach them such wonderful lessons.

    Madonna. Madonna.

    • Not post it?
      How could I not post it?
      May God bless you for your prayers, and the old man.
      A smarter guy than so many who fancy themselves educated and so wise in the things of the world, but are so tragically lacking in the things of heaven.


  5. How timely Mundabor! Yesterday at a funeral, Pastor Nancy’s gimmick was to give out playing cards to celebrate great-grandma’s love for playing card games. The adult children were all given the aces of course. She even threw in a pair of aces into the plot at the cemetery as her parting gift.The circus is the distraction. Why pray for grandma when grandma is in heaven playing euchre?

    • On the other hand, if one has “Pastor Nancy” instead of a sound Catholic priest, “Pastor Nancy” is what she has deserved.


  6. At my father-in-law’s wake, here in the US, we had a basket of scapulars with a novena to Our Lady of Mount Carmel attached, to honor our Blessed Mother for her aid. He was buried in Italy and his wife took another 150 to Italy with his prayer card attached, to give out to those who visited her at home…..a better idea than playing cards, and so fitting to honor Our Lady for helping him/us.

  7. Uh…Christian Bale played Batman. Robert Downey Jr. played Iron Man. Otherwise, perfect.

    • Thanks!
      I am not sure if I should correct the text now, or keep it as it is as proof that, were I to be terminally ill, I would care even less than now who played whom… 😉


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