On love and dignity and dying

In the end, we couldn’t take away Tony’s suffering, or my dad’s. The sadness
and grief still weigh heavily on me and my mom. I’m not sure I can say that Tony’s suffering and death were beautiful. In fact, it was messy sometimes. Yes, there was pain; it was painful for him even though we did our best to manage it, and it was painful for us who loved him.

But his dying was never without dignity. I asked Tony to let us love him through his sufferings, and we were able to love him all the way through to the end. And in letting us do that, he showed us courage and heroism, and embodied real dignity. Tony’s journey through his own illness, suffering and death was nothing short of courageous; but that he did all this and cared for my dad in his illness and death is simply heroic. Courage and heroism aren’t born in complacency or contentment, nor are they the hallmarks of fearlessness and ordinary strength. They are created in response to trials and suffering, and they’re evidence of the triumph of hope over despair. Dignity too is made possible through courage and heroism, but love makes all of these possible; love in time of affliction is the condition that makes dignity a reality.

No, dignity isn’t opposed to suffering; sometimes in suffering dignity reveals its truest face.

By Jason Welle, SJ

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