Print This Post

william_e_may.jpgHuman Life: a precious gift from God
In his magnificent Homily, “Stand Up for Human Life,” that he gave on the Washington Mall on October 7, 1979, Pope John Paul II eloquently defended the intrinsic goodness of human life, including bodily life, declaring: “Human life is not just an idea or an abstraction. Human life is the concrete reality of a being that lives, that acts, that grows and develops.  Human life is the concrete reality of a being that is capable of love and of service to humanity.” Moreover, he added: “When God gives life it is forever.”

Standing with Peter: God’s Loving Providence to Me up to my 78th year
In 2006, when I was 78 years old, I wrote a short book, Standing with Peter. The book’s subtitle was “Reflections of a Lay Moral Theologian on God’s Loving Providence.” In this short memoir I wrote of God’s wonderful goodness to me and my family. God is a loving Father who wills for us only the good. He has been extraordinarily good to me, giving me wonderful parents, sisters, holy priests and nuns as models, faith-filled friends, the best wife a man could have, seven loving  children, four boys and three girls, six now married with 15 very healthy and bright children—the latest, Luke Boardman, born June 18 2009 in London, and the special grace to repent of my sins and in particular my cowardly rejection of Humanae Vitae in 1968 and then to become one of its strongest supporters—aided in all this by friends like Germain Grisez, Father John Harvey, and my valiant wife who regarded contraception with disgust.

When I wrote Standing with Peter I was, as I had been for years, enjoying good health for a person of my age. The only medications I took regularly were eye drops for glaucoma; I also had problems with my feet and had peripheral vascular disease and had been hospitalized several times since 2001 with cellulitis of my lower legs and feet. But never had they swollen to gigantic proportions, nor had my thighs and abdomen swollen immensely. Life was truly for me God’s great gift because it was so free of suffering.

God’s Loving Providence to Me in 2009
Early in 2009 things changed dramatically. On April 4 I was once more hospitalized with a serious case of cellulitis of one of my legs and feet, terribly complicated this time by severe swelling of my legs and thighs both left and right. In addition, my stomach rapidly became extended so that trousers that were about to fall off because I had struggled to lose a lot of weight were now so tight only a few could be fastened. I was in a hospital from April 4 until Easter, when I was sent to a rehabilitation center adjacent to my wife’s and my apartment in Riderwood Village ; populated by almost 3000 elderly persons, the majority of  whom had retired. I stayed in that center from Easter until May 13, when I returned to my apartment but continued to receive home care from a physical therapist, an occupational therapist, and a nurse (this care ceased last week). The cellulitis had cleared up but my legs and thighs and abdomen were still swollen and I had great shortness of breath after exertion and a racking cough.

Toward the end of June, when I went to see my primary care doctor (I was hospitalized in an emergency on a weekend when my doctor was unavailable, so he had not seen me either in the hospital or rehabilitation center). He saw how terribly swollen my legs and thighs were, how distended my stomach was, witnessed the shortness of breath after exertion, and listened to my lungs. He said my left lung had fluid in it; he had an x-ray taken and advised me to see a pulmonary specialist as soon as possible. I did so; the pulmanory specialist removed over a liter of fluid from my left lung, leaving some there. For the next day or so I had no shortness of breath but the swelling continued. I returned to the specialist a few days later, after my primary doctor had me get an abdomen sonogram and give him a urine specimen—all of which were shared with the pulmonary specialist. The doctors now believe that the problem is caused by a deficiency of protein caused in turn by liver damage. They hope that the issue can be resolved with not too much difficulty by having me take pills to remove the fluids from abdomen, lungs and body parts. Yesterday, on the advice of primary doctor and the pulmonologist, I saw a specialist gastroenterologist with expertise in liver problems to get his advice. He concurred with the advice given, increasing dramatically the daily dosage of diuretic pills. We all hope that this will remove all the fluids so that I can resume normal life.
I must lie in a reclining chair with my feet above my heart much of the day, also do strenuous exercises to increase circulation, etc. I cannot drive of resume normal activities. I can, fortunately, work on my computer a few hours each day to meet commitments to the Culture of Life Foundation and others, but it is very hard to do so.


Why tell all this? In his loving providence our Father God is allowing me to experience some suffering in my life, and my situation is not nearly as bad as that of some friends and of the thousands who are paralyzed, quadruple amputees, suffering from dreadful and lethal pathologies. Jesus has told us that we should come to him if we are heavily burdened and he will refresh us because his yoke is sweet and his burden light. But he also told us that we are to take up our cross daily and follow him; this is the way we show that we are his disciples, making up with our own sufferings what is lacking to Christ’s for the sake of his body, the Church (cf. Colossians 1:24). Moreover, as St. Josemaria Escriva has reminded us, Jesus is our Simon of Cyrene, ready to help us carry any cross he sends us. Our life is still a precious gift from a  loving Father!

Dr. William E. May