Friday, November 18, 2011

Last Things

Sometime today or tomorrow, I will complete a 70,000-word manuscript that I have been researching and writing for eight months. This is a relief and it is strangely unsettling, too. It will be awesome to round into Thanksgiving with this burden off my shoulders. Yet there is an unaccountable impulse in me to keep the burden on my shoulders as long as possible.

All this week, I have been dithering, wasting time, procrastinating, holding back from the finish line. I want to finish. I do not want to finish.

I am facing The End.

I have noticed a similar impulse in my clients. Much of my professional work—though not my current project—involves helping people write and privately publish their memoirs. Naturally, most of my clients are quite elderly. Their average age is low-80s. I have concluded that until today’s typical American reaches 80, he or she expects to live forever. At 80, reality sinks in: Maybe I should start pulling things together. “Just in case something happens to me,” as my dear dad used to put it.

Finishing one’s memoir is as if to say, It is finished. I have reached the end. And who wants to say that? I had a client who took nine years to complete his book. Things. Just. Kept. Happening.

The end of a football game is another thing. Everyone loves the end of a football game. (And basketball? Who likes anything but the end of a basketball game?)

Did you see last night’s game? Thursday Night Football is always too late for this Catholic blogger guy, whose motto is “Supine by nine.” But here was a great morality play for me to contemplate: St. Tim Tebow of the Denver Broncos (above) slaying the hated J-E-T-S, Jets! Jets! Jets!

I stayed up past eleven (“In heaven by eleven”). And the controversial born-again Christian quarterback delivered! Wow! What a game!

St. Tim didn’t do squat for three and a half quarters, but with life on the line (or maybe just the game) he led the Broncos on a 95-yard drive for Denver’s only offensive touchdown and a 17–13 win.


If professional football is a metaphor for life, here is where the analogy breaks down. We love the ends of football games. We dread the end of life.

In these weeks leading up to Advent, the Church proposes that we think of the Four Last Things: death, judgment, hell, and heaven. But doing so is not easy.

The illustration at the top of this post is “Four Last Things” by Hieronymus Bosch. Enlarge it and contemplate it. Perhaps it will help.

I am sure it will help more than a football game, since the beauty of the endless NFL schedule is, There’s always another one. Until the Great Letdown following the Super Bowl.

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