At the entrance of Sarno’s (Salerno) cemetery, you can find this inscription:
I asked God to make me strong
To carry out marvellous plans:
He has made me weak to preserve me humble.
I asked God to make me healthy
To carry out great exploits:
He’s given me pains to make me understand health better.
I asked Him richness to own everything:
He has made me poor so I could not be selfish.
I asked Him Power
Because men would need me:
He has given me humiliation because I would need them.
I asked God everything to enjoy life:
He has left me my life because I could appreciate everything.
Lord, I have not received what I asked,
but you has given me what I needed
and quite against my willing.
The prayers I did not say were answered.
Be praised my Lord, among the men
None has what I have!
This prayer was written and recited by Kirk Kilgour (1947-2002) before Pope Giovanni Paolo II in Rome. Kirk Kilgour was an American volleyball champion and an A Series player in Italy, who, in 1976, was left a quadriplegic after a neck injury.
Among the numerous jobs he did after the accident, there was that of a “motivational speaker”, teaching other quadriplegic and so-called “normal people” how to face adversity! He gave other people courage, and he was paralyzed!
I could comment more on this exceptional life, but I choose to double it sharing another extraordinary life. Io non ho paura (I Am Not Afraid) is a book about the life of Francesca Pedrazzini, a 38-year-old mother of three, who, just before she died of cancer, told her family: “Time is precious. I am not afraid. I am happy”.
When she realized she had very little time left, she told her husband not to worry, “because I am in peace, I have faith in Jesus and I am curious to see what He’s got in store for me”. She kissed and caressed her children and said, “I am going to a beautiful place, I am going to to Jesus. And, when I am there, you must celebrate”.
Fearless, happy, curious… certain!
What has allowed Francesca Pedrazzini to die this way? If we can deal with death – the Fear of all fears – this way, then we are also able to face every life event with the same heroic courage.The point is that too many times I’ve heard: “I don’t fear death, I just fear losing the people I love… I fear becoming poor and not being able to sustain my family… I am afraid of ending up on a wheelchair”. All the fears we experience reflect indeed the fear to lose parts of ourselves, our identity. Fear is always the fear of losing something to death, not so much our physical body, but everything we are attached to: relatives, health, our partner, etc.
One of the ancient esoteric schools’ prerogatives was teaching students how to die. I am not talking about sterile, new-agish “meditations on death”, but a proper work to voluntarily let out those aspects of the personality causing pain and discomfort, in order to let them die – or rather, transform them.
By daily observing and being Present every time negative emotions arise, we become able, at some point, to identify what we may call the personality’s “main feature”, “main weakness”, or “chronic reaction”, which is the usual way it uses to keep us from being present and awake. This mechanical reaction shows in our behavior, posture, facial expressions, the way we fall in love, the people we tend to fall in love with, and so on.
If we asked the average man strolling at the Ikea what’s his life purpose, whatever answer he’d give (traveling, raising a family, sleeping with many partners, singing at X-Factor, etc), the true one would be: “My life purpose is to keep finding new ways to keep my biological machine from awakening”.
A person is really “on the path”, not when this frightful purpose changes – this actually happens, in a real and not just intellectual way, much later – but when this purpose to keep sleeping becomes awareness. Finally, when he is working on himself and his “chronic reaction” arise (90% of the times it’s anger, or some childhood-related fear) he’ll be able to say: “Yes! Here’s my chronic reaction, it means I’m close to awakening. I must not waste energy, but stay alert and Present, in order to spot the threshold when it appears… and pass through it”.
So, next time you’ll be facing your recurrent negative emotion, think about this article and tell yourself: “I AM NOT AFRAID!”