Wednesday, May 27, 2009
A visit to Cardinal Kim in the hospital.
Reflection by a Maryknoller visiting Cardinal Kim before his death.
First part of the Reflection.
I got into the hospital room to see Cardinal Kim 2 weeks before he died.
To see his face-well-it wasn't his face.
More like the caved in shattered look of an Egyptian mummy.
He didn't speak beyond a few words-mono-syllables mostly.
I never expected to get in the room,
just brought some paintings to leave for him.
But I was allowed in along with Father Alphonso Kim who had suggested the attempt.
The Cardinal recognized our presence, took our hands to ask a blessing.
We each said our own peace.
He responded with his hands.
Even called us back when we started to leave.
Took our hands again, said, "Thank you," then relaxed and drifted off.
The strongest impression remains how much his face had changed, how little he was able to communicate.
Thinking back on our few minutes with him now,
I tend to put the kind of smiling face we all knew onto that helpless body,
wanting to forget that mask
and my desire to say to him, "Please go! It's time to go!"
That was a Sunday morning. He lived two weeks more.
Dying finally on a Monday evening.
And the country has been full of him since,
four hundred thousand people stood in the cold,
long lines forming far from the cathedral where he lay in state.
From 6 AM to midnight-
Some waiting four hours and more to pay their respects, as the saying goes, for just a few seconds as the crowd had to be hurried along,
Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday.
What shall I write?
I sit here looking at my hands
The blue veins beneath, the papery fragility of skin-the hands of an old person,
The one I must admit to being.
The Cardinal was seven years older
The years of his insomnia are over.
It took death to do it.
It plagued him for many year.
Was it the price he paid?
Maybe it was that many around him were trying to fool him-
That's a better way to say it.
He was no fool, chosen very young to lead a clergy with little reputation for docility,
Presiding over years of unprecedented change,
A willing son of Vatican II, open to its freshness,
Calm and strong midst political turmoil,
Holding it all together, lording it over nobody.