Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of November 4, 2002
Fragility of life urges introspection
By MSGR. JIM LISANTE
My family recently had health scares. My normally active and vital parents both faced serious illness. Before this, they had always been there to care for each other. But their simultaneous bouts with health challenges shook us and reminded us of the fragility of life.
Not unlike many others facing such difficulties, we could feel our family becoming insular. Other activities took a lower priority, and nursing our parents became the only focus of attention. We turned inward, because that's where my sisters and I felt we had to be. Happily, mom and dad are doing much better. But the whole experience got me to thinking about the ways we choose to respond to illness.
One of my parishioners, a man named Carmello Cervino, also faced a series of health woes. His were much more serious than my parents'. In fact, for five years he faced what turned out to be a terminal illness.
Now many of us decide that our sickness is an appropriate occasion to slow the wheels of life. We decide that we'll use whatever time we have left to ponder, to reflect, to adjust, to pray. Carmello's response was vastly different. He determined that whatever time he had left would be time well spent.
Carmello had always been the first to volunteer for charity, but now, with the clock ticking, he redoubled his good works. He continued his efforts to battle cerebral palsy and to assist the Gift of Life Foundation which provides medical care for poor children. As a past president of the county Boys and Girls Club, he continued to assist its work, as well as that of the Rotary Club.
A member of the board of trustees for the local hospital and nursing home, he also gave countless hours to the Daytop Rehabilitation Centre. And his sharp mind in business matters aided the Queens County Economic Development Corp. On the spiritual front, Carmello never missed his place at the monthly gathering of the Nocturnal Adoration Society.
I recall my surprise when he ran for the office of grand knight for our local Knights of Columbus council. By this time, he was acutely ill. But he knew he could do the job, and he loved both the fraternal and philanthropic nature of the Knights.
He did an outstanding job as grand knight, and would have been re-elected, but by this time, Carmello knew his time on earth was winding down. He had "fought the good fight . . . finished the race." Having lived a full and giving life, he could face his Maker without regrets.
Near the end of his life, I had the privilege of visiting Carmello at the hospital. He was weak, but his mind remained clear. I thought my visit would be for the traditional Anointing and Confession. But he had already done all that.
So he surprised me when he said: "Some people spend these last days recounting all their life's wrongs. I'm not going to do that. I've already made my Confession. But I would like to talk about everything that was right in my life. All the blessings I received. All the opportunities I was given to do good things for people in need. All the ways this giving made me a better and richer man."
And so he did. We talked of the many graces he had experienced in his life. Certainly his wife and children were the greatest blessings. But high on that list was the opportunity to give something back for the many blessings he had received. He knew that he had been given a wonderful life. And in deciding to share that wonderful life on behalf of others, he felt his blessings were doubled. Carmello Cervino, RIP.
We all have the chance and the choice to leave a legacy of loving service. Choose well.
(For a free copy of the Christopher News Note, Being a Good Neighbour, write: The Christophers, 12 East 48 St., New York, NY, 10017; or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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