“Let your steadfast love comfort me according to your promise to your servant.” – Psalm 119:76

I received a call that a friend was very sick. My experience of palliative care has not been positive. Most of those we pray for when they are sent to this place pass away after a few days, or for some, after a few hours. On the train, I had a sad, sinking feeling that my friend might not come out of it. To find some solace, I looked out the window but all I saw were dead trees and burnt, yellowing grass.

I was carrying the book of St Therese “The Story of a Soul”, and although I did not have the desire to read, I felt it would give some comfort.

I am always touched by the life of this saint – her childlike simplicity, her candid sharing of suffering with love. As my patron saint, she was re-assuring me of her presence. There was a section that left a lasting impression on me that day – her story of the thimble and the big tumbler.

She was asking her sister if God gives equal amount of glory to all the elect in Heaven. So she was asked to fill both the thimble and the tumbler with water. She noticed that one was as full as the other.

It was food for my soul – it made me ponder that some of us are called to have a large capacity to love, while others a smaller container, but regardless, if it is full to the brim, there is no need to be envious of those called to greatness.

February is called the month of love, Saint Valentine’s Day. It originated as a Western Christian liturgical feast honouring early saints and first became associated with romantic love within the circle of Geoffrey Chaucer in the 14th century when courtly love flourished.

We know that although there is much joy in loving, there is much suffering too – especially the anguish of separation. So we wonder, does it makes sense to love as much, as loving has many trials of its own? Is it a grave error to refuse loving the best we could, for fear of losing?

We are called to love as God loves. But what is Christian love? Is it demarcated by warm, fuzzy feeling, shivers on your spine, and butterflies in the stomach, fast heartbeats and sleepless nights?

We do not have these feelings to all people we meet, and yet, love is the greatest command. In the “allaboutgod” website, Christian love is defined as “giving to others those things that you would want them to give you if you were in their situation — and it’s doing so even if they can’t pay you back. In fact, it’s doing so especially if they can’t pay you back. Christian love is respect for others. It’s mercy. It’s charity.”

When the King James translators came upon the Greek word agape (God’s love), in addition to using the English word “love” to transliterate it, they often chose the English word “charity.” This was meant to reinforce the idea that agape is a selfless, giving love.

God’s love is unselfish and unconditional.” And often it is found in the ability to forgive, as when we love we do get hurt a lot.

After a few hours of praying that afternoon, my friend passed away the next morning. The pain of separation hit us. We took consolation in the thought that her suffering was over.

We held on fast to our faith – filled with hope that she has received the best reward of all – eternal life with Jesus whom she had loved and served faithfully.

Like St Therese, who died at aged 24 of tuberculosis, my friend endured the intense sufferings of her last days without losing patience and even with supernatural joy. We prayed for a physical miracle for her, an extension of life, but death, they say, is a unique episode at the end of the life of man and remains a mystery.

While in prayer we have witnessed the healing miracle power of God on some of those we prayed for, for many, the healing has taken place in the form of physical release – death.

We can only humbly surrender. This is an event beyond our control – no power, riches, success, fortune, wealth, youth, piety can supplicate against its grip.

Death has no meaning unless it is rooted in our trust that Jesus has taken its frightful peril and transforms it into a victorious and glorious life, out of this troubled world, leading us into the green pasture that He has promised.

What remains for us is this treasured person we know, who used her earthly life, as large tumbler of love.

Originally posted on 24 February 2017

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