My sister Mary passed away about 48 hours ago, succumbing to the ravages of bodily dissolution after 18 months of battling illness. She had steadfastly insisted that her tribulations remain private and discreet during her sickness, but since there will be obituaries published within the next couple days, I hardly see the point now in maintaining a public silence.
Still, the details are nobody’s business, as strange as that sentiment may sound in the age of Facebook and Twitter. It seems that everything is supposed to be everyone else’s business these days, and in real-time, no less. I think Mary taught those who love her a few important things during the last months and days of her life, and the enduring importance of – and necessary place for – privacy is surely one of them.
Another one of them is the clear demarcation between despair and charitableness. Mary could perhaps have been accused of living in denial at times, but I suspect she always had a pretty realistic view of what lay ahead. Rather than denial, I suspect her insistence on living as large as possible through it all was a refusal to fall into despair, or to seek pity. She preferred that everyone enjoy themselves, and this was itself a choice to reject the self-centeredness of despair for a charitableness toward everyone within her orbit. It becomes ever clearer to me why the Eastern Fathers speak of despondency as sin.
Finally, I think we all learned a thing or two about determination, and about the futility of trying to predict where and when the spirit blows. Mary was someone who generally got her way; it is amazing to consider that she found a way to continue to do that, even when she was too weak to whisper.
My little sister, may God give your soul peaceful rest, and call you forth to the resurrection of the just, on the day of the great and final judgment.