Today marks the one year anniversary of the death of John Paul II. Below is the text of a short radio broadcast I did last year which reflected on the juxtaposition of two very public deaths. Thought it might merit a new airing.
“Two members of the Catholic church died very publicly in recent weeks. Terri Schiavo finally passed on after being in a persistent vegetative state for 15 years. The other was of course the Pope. And they couldn’t have been more dissimilar.
Schiavo’s death was resisted by many for weeks as she became public property. John Paul II on the other hand seemed to embrace his decline willingly, and offered it as a service to the world. More than once I found myself thinking in the final days and hours, ‘this could last weeks’. But I thought it less from a sense of impatience and more from a desire to see an end to the man’s suffering.
But reflecting on it I recognised that his death has not been a recent thing. He has been dying before our eyes for years now. In fact, by the time the end came it was hard to imagine him in his prime, keeping goal for his local football team and flinging his body with wild abandon at the feet on an onrushing centre forward, as he once must surely have done. No, we became used to his bent up, mumbling self, a far cry from the handsome man of the photographs from a time when the world was at war.
His death was a service to us because it reminded us again of a number of things. That faith still matters to many, many people, despite what some would have us believe. But also that death need not be feared, that it can be faced. That prolonging life at all costs should not be an end in itself. That he has gone the way of all people including us.”