But he said in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, I do not know you.’ Therefore, stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour. (Matthew 25-12-13)
Most of my adult life, I have prayed that God would give me advance notice of my impending death. As I prayed for that gift, it always seemed like a reasonable request. Because of recent events, it now, in hindsight, reveals itself as the prideful, silly prayer it was. In reality, God has given each of us advance notice. We know that, by right of our birth, we are ALL going to die. We will all face the Last Four Things: Death, Judgement, Heaven or Hell. For this reason, we must be ever vigilant in our quest for union with Christ, our Savior.
Fortunately for me, God gave me a serious wake up call. A call that, had I not woken up, as many don’t, I would have faced my own judgement and would have had to account for the entirety of my life. I shudder at that accounting.
What should have been my final call came on the morning of Monday, August 26th. I am typically a light sleeper and this morning was no different. Only this time it was not a dog barking or the distant blowing of a car horn that woke me up. At 4:05 am I woke up to the jolt of a pain in my left arm. Not a searing pain, but a shot in the arm and a cramp. I rolled over and over trying to go back to sleep. Finally, at 4:30 am, with the discomfort increasing, I decided to get up and pray, thinking I could pray this away. Silly, prideful me. I was getting my advance notice and chose briefly to pray it away. God had other plans, of course.
As the pain slowly moved up my arm and into my shoulder, I felt a nudge in my soul to get moving. It was time. At 5:02 I woke my wife up, firmly but controlling any fear I had, “You need to get up. I am having a heart attack. You need to take me to the hospital. We need to go now!”
In her slumber, she asked, “What?”
I repeated, “You need to get up. I am having a heart attack. You need to take me to the hospital. We need to go now! I will get Catherine up.” Catherine is our nine year old and only child still living at home. Our bonus baby.
Standing by her door, I called to her, “Sweet BooBoo, you need to get up and get your school clothes. Mom has to take dad to the hospital.” As calm as she could be, she got out of bed and got moving. It always amazes me how composed she is in difficult times.
All three of us quickly moved to the car and headed to the hospital. Running one stop light and jumping a curb, Catherine suggested we pray. In my heart, I was already praying in my seat. As the pain escalated and spread to my chest, I asked The Blessed Mother to get us to the hospital in time. I could not imagine dropping dead in front of my nine year old and wife. I was calm, but I knew that was a distinct possibility.
As you can see from my writing this, we arrived in time. It was not a moment past 5:15 am when we arrived. By 5:40 the hospital staff was rolling me into the Catheter Lab for an angiogram, angioplasty and then a stent. I had a 98% blockage in the “widow maker” artery. According to the doctors, had we been much longer the outcome would have been grave. Surprisingly, I only had a single previous occasion with any visible signs, which I ignored. Pride.
I have never had high blood pressure, high cholesterol, I don’t drink, had never smoked and worked out hard to stay in shape. It made no sense to us. The reality, we were told, is that in my case the blockage was purely genetic and most likely could not have been prevented.
I knew when I heard the diagnosis, I had been given a second chance. I already had my advance notice, as do we all. I know I will face judgment.
Christ has given each of us advance notice in His parables spoken in gospel. Reflect on the parable of the Rich Man. What does Christ tell him?
But God said to him, ‘You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you; and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?’ Thus will it be for the one who stores up treasure for himself but is not rich in what matters to God.” (Luke 12:20-21)
Our soul is immortal, but our body is dust to be raised and reunited with our soul at final judgement.
Our mortal body is an earthly gift God gives us to build His kingdom on earth.
I write this post after months of virtual silence on this blog in the hope that others can see this as their own wake-up call. Death can come like a thief in the night. After death comes judgment. Don’t wait. Turn to Christ, receive the sacraments, go to confession and spend time with Jesus.
JMJ, pray for us!
God is good,