Monday, December 12, 2016

December 12: Mortality, Anointing of the Sick, "Extreme Unction"

Last night's trip to the hospital has got me thinking about mortality again.  How my father never seemed like he was prone to the aches and scourges of everyday people.  I've seen him cut his hand open on a piece of sheet metal, duct tape the wound close, and then continue working.

Last weekend, our parish priest stopped by my dad's house for a visit.  Near the end, Father Larry asked my dad if he wanted to be anointed.  My dad agreed, so Father Larry brought out his oils and performed a ritual that used to be called extreme unction.  It is now referred to as anointing of the sick.

When I was a kid, if you received this sacrament, it meant that you were on your way out.  It was reserved for the nearly dead and dying.  It was also called last rites.  Now, however, it's performed as a ritual of healing.

Of course, having grown up with the idea of last rites, it's difficult to shake the image of the Grim Reaper knocking on the door as the priest administers the oils.

It may not surprise you to know that Saint Marty once wrote a poem on the subject.

Extreme Unction

by:  Martin Achatz

Swaddled by AIDS in hospital bed.
Unlimbed by bombs in Afghanistan.
Unhinged by helix in mind.
Stunned by stroke, macheted by Hutu.
Unbreasted by cancer, unvoiced by dictator.
Addicted by birth, unmemoried by age.
Jack Kennedy at Parkland Memorial,
wide-eyed on the stretcher,
Jackie staring into his wrecked face.
Twenty six at Sandy Hook,
taken on a sunny December morning
just before Christmas break.
My father sits with them all,

The wounded, ruined, helpless,
waits for the priest’s  prayer and oil.
To the man in black, he whispers,
This is for my wife, accepts it,
carries it home on his foreheard,
cupped in his palms, like winter
run-off.  He gives it to my mother,
pours it over her feet, legs, hands, head.
He hopes she will jump out of her chair
and start cooking him liver and onions
the way she did when they were first
married, standing in front of the stove,
singing a Doris Day song, hair wrapped
in a blue kerchief, hips swaying,
looking as if she will live forever.

Please vote for me:

Voting for 2017-2019 Poet Laureate of the U. P.  

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