The recent revelation that Mother Teresa of Calcutta suffered from long periods of spiritual desolation in which she felt utterly abandoned by God has—to say the least—met with a mixed response from the media.
She died on Sunday, after a month of dateless days that began on Halloween and ended just short of Thanksgiving. We went from the hospice admitting office to a Halloween party in the family room, where volunteers offered us fruit punch, orange cupcakes and orange and black balloons. Three toddlers in identical ladybug suits were dancing on the faux-parquet ballroom floor to the electrically amplified folk songs of a long-haired balladeer.
I didn’t want to come back. My consciousness hovered somewhere above the body lying on the gurney. It was all over, I thought. The last sensation I remembered had been incomprehensible pain, then a tunnel, and a grinding noise as described in other near-death experiences. But unlike other people who tell of “NDEs,” I saw no lights, no angels, no dead relatives, no friendly saints; rather, I found myself very much awake in a weightless, imageless, gray hyperreality. I experienced a blessed clarity, freedom and relief, and a stunning sense of the illusory nature of the life I’d left behind.
One of these All Saints Days our names will be read. We are the potential saints for future generations. We are the shoulders on which others will stand. Will we be ancestors who sat on their hands or ancestors who raised their hands? Sometimes we forget that we aren’t just living our busy lives. We’re also laying a foundation, molding a future and establishing a legacy. How is it going?
"Pastor, my cousin is in General Hospital. Her name is Theda Manheim. The family doesn't go to church. Won't you visit her?" It was more of a command than a request. Clara Goggins was like that. She was known for her tangle of gray hair, ridiculous hats and sharp tongue. Her heart was pure, though—at least in regard to my visiting her cousin. She explained, "Theda's cancer has spread.