What Nearly Dying Has Taught Me

Posted Sonlight Press Faith

I’ve had Crohn’s disease for over half of my life and it has been trying to kill me from the beginning.

From massive bleeding in emergency rooms to unexplained and devastating weight loss.  From post operative infections to pneumonia and kidney failure.  My disease has not liked me one bit.

The feeling is mutual.

The numerous times it has tried to shorten my life has taught me to relish the simple moments with those you love.  Help people.  Love each other.  Focus on what matters, not what is convenient.  Be open to God’s call and obedient in following it.  Don’t waste time here by worrying.  Can you remember what you were upset about five years ago today?  Neither can I.  Can I remember the moment my wife walked down the aisle 23 years ago?  Absolutely.  Focus on the important things and the rest will take care of itself.


Today, probably as this is posted online, I’ll be on a gurney being wheeled into surgery for my sixth major intestinal resection in an otherwise uneventful life.  I don’t anticipate death taking another swing at me, but I do know the recovery that awaits.

And it’s gonna suck.

Fortunately, early on my brother Paul, also stricken with this same chronic pain in the buttocks, reminded me of my mother’s sage words… “Offer it up.”

And I have, everyday since then, because nearly dying has taught me one other thing.  It’s all temporary.  The good and the bad.  Even one’s complete life is temporary, a single drop in an eternal sea.  So, I offer up decades long, temporary suffering to the Lord, confident he can use it for some good, somewhere, at some time.

Having read many stories of saints and mystics, I know and believe that, when united to the Lord’s suffering, good can come from our pain.  The undiagnosable suffering of Saint Teresa of Avila, to Maria Teresa Carloni offering up three hours of suffering for Stalin’s soul before his death, to Padre Pio offering up the stigmata.  Countless saints and mystics of the Church have shown us that suffering doesn’t have to be wasted selfishly, but can be offered for the betterment of the world selflessly, through faith.

When I’m having a really bad day, I think of what these saints have said about their suffering.

If God sends you many sufferings, it is a sign that He has great plans for you and certainly wants to make you a saint.
–St. Ignatius Loyola

I have recently come to realize that, despite offering up my suffering to the Lord for nearly 25 years, I have never embraced it, like the saints.  As a matter of fact, I have prayed for healing, as long as that healing wouldn’t impede my entry into heaven. If, by being healed, I am tempted to stray, then let me keep the disease.

It is better for you to enter into life maimed or crippled than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into eternal fire.
–Matthew 18:8

But, if I can be healed and remain faithful, then lets get those divine juices flowing and this miracle on our calendar!  If not, then I must rely on my faith and the example of the saints, for they have suffered more than I ever will and have remained true to their calling.

God had one son on earth without sin, but never one without suffering.
–Saint Augustine of Hippo

A servant is not greater than his master.
–John 15:20

There have been many days, most days, actually, that I have loathed this disease and what it has done to me and my family.  I have hated how it has limited my once grand plans and the worry it has caused my wife and children.  I have been worn down by it’s incessant attack on me, never leaving me alone, never giving me two days in a row with which I can expect to be the same.

And, yet, this stupid, painful, debilitating, aggressive, annoying and embarrassing disease has also done good things.  It’s consequences and the scars that cover my body have stripped away my pride.  It’s invasive nature and uncertainty has forged my faith in fire.  It has made me a better man, more patient and more empathetic.

All the science of the Saints is included in these two things: To do, and to suffer. And whoever had done these two things best, has made himself most saintly.
–Saint Francis de Sales

I know what is awaiting me when I awake from the anesthesia.  I know the drill.  Breathing will hurt.  Walking will hurt.  Standing will hurt.  Sitting will hurt.  But I’ll do it.  And I’ll try to embrace it this time, if I am strong enough.

When it is all over you will not regret having suffered; rather you will regret having suffered so little, and suffered that little so badly.’
–St. Sebastian Valfre

We only have one life here and, sometimes, it will include aches and inconveniences.  Don’t sweat the small stuff and don’t waste the painful stuff.  Tell those you love how much.  Hug those you miss.  Pray often.  Forgive more.  Be better tomorrow than you are today.

See you in the recovery room where I hope I’ll be smiling through the pain.

3 Comments on “What Nearly Dying Has Taught Me

  • Ron says:

    We love you and continue to lift you and your family up in our prayers!

  • Elle says:

    You rock Pete and you are a rock!

    I am praying for a speedy recovery for you.

    Hope you are comfortable and can enjoy the time with family.

  • Sanaa says:

    What a powerful message! My prayers are with you for a speedy recovery so you can continue to bless us all with your super poignant visions. What a gift!

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