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January 02, 2019 Wednesday 02:25:01 PM IST

None? Be the one


Are You Digging My Grave? is a poem written by the British writer Thomas Hardy (1840-1928). It is about a young woman who was buried after she succumbed to a serious illness. Hardy makes her come alive and she hears someone digging on her grave. Her first thought was about her husband and so she asks, “Ah, are you digging on my grave, my loved one planting rue?” For a moment she believes her husband was there to plant rue, an ornamental plant to adorn her grave. It brings on delightful memories of her life with him.

However, immediately she remembers that it was only on the previous day he got married to another woman and so he would not be the one digging her grave. “Then who is digging my grave?” she asks again. “My dearest kin?” At that time it dawns on her that they would not waste their time to come to the grave for planting flowers. “But someone digs upon my grave,” she says to herself.  For a moment she thinks it is her enemy who came to dig her grave. Then she recalls it could not be so as she had “passed the Gate” and her enemy “cares not where you lie.”

Since she fails to figure out who it was who was digging her grave, she asks aloud, “Who is digging on my grave?” “O it is I, my distress dear,” a voice owns up in response. “Your little dog, who still lives near,

And much I hope my movements here Have not disturbed your rest?”

She is ecstatic as she hears the sweet voice of her pet dog.

“Ah, yes! You dig upon my grave. Why flashed it not on me

That one true heart was left behind!

 What feeling do we ever find

To equal among human kind

A dog's fidelity!”

But she was totally mistaken. Her pet dog was not there out of his love or fidelity. “'Mistress,” he says,

“I dug upon your grave

To bury a bone, in case I should be hungry near this spot

When passing on my daily trot.

I am sorry, but I quite forgot

It was your resting-place.”

Hardy’s poem ends here with the buried woman totally ignored and forgotten by everyone. Even though her pet dog came to the grave, it was only by mistake. The dog was not looking for her as she fantasized for a moment, but was only trying to bury a bone in a convenient place! Imagine the pain of this woman who is abandoned and ignored by everyone.

Feeling abandoned

The story of this woman is not an isolated one. Sometimes it is reflected in our own lives. Even when we have family and friends, sometimes we may feel abandoned and ignored by them. It could be the result of our failures or mistakes in life. Or it could be because of some other reason. But during times like this, what we desperately need is someone to hold us and comfort us and refresh us. Otherwise, we will lay buried in the tomb of our failures and pain.

Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen (1895-1979) was an outstanding American radio and television personality who mesmerized the public for more than three decades through his award-winning radio and television shows. While he was the auxiliary bishop of New York Archdiocese, he met a young man who came to St. Patrick Cathedral to pray. His name was Paul Scott and he had been afflicted with leprosy which was usually unheard of in the United States.

When his parents found out he had leprosy, they sent him to a hospital in Carville, Louisiana. After six years of treatment, he was cured of his leprosy. However, when he got out of the hospital, nobody came to pick him up including his parents. Feeling abandoned and depressed, he came to New York. While being there, he entered the Cathedral to pray. It was then he met Auxiliary Bishop Sheen who was there talking to people.

When Scott met the Auxiliary Bishop, he said, “I have nobody. Not even a single friend in this world. That is why I came inside the church.” “Now you have a friend,” shaking his hand warmly and with a welcoming smile, Auxiliary Bishop Sheen said.” He then talked to Scott for a while and invited him to join him for dinner the following day. Pretty soon Scott became a close friend of Bishop Sheen.

When Auxiliary Bishop Sheen was appointed the Bishop of Rochester, New York, Scott was invited for the investiture ceremony. He was given a front seat when he arrived at the cathedral. While processing to the altar with other bishops and church dignitaries, Bishop Sheen noticed Scott and immediately he reached out and gave him a warm embrace. When Bishop Sheen moved on, a woman who was standing next to Scott asked him, “Are you a delegate from Vatican?” “No,” he said. “I am only a friend.” Forthwith the woman said, “Anyway, he has much love for you.”

Need for comfort

Archbishop Sheen was a close friend of Scott who was abandoned by everyone including his parents. It was through this friendship that Scott regained his self-esteem and confidence. When we feel ignored and left alone, we also desperately need someone to hold us and comfort us. However, often we do not find anybody. But the fact is that there is always someone waiting for us to comfort us and strengthen us to face our challenges in life. It is none other than almighty God who created us and protects us. He always sees our sorrows. He is aware of our pain.

What we need to do is to turn to him asking for help. And he will help us giving us the blessings we need in our life including faithful friends who will support and encourage us. However, the more important question is, are we willing to become a friend like that for others who need encouragement and support.  God is always attentive to our needs. He is always anxious to make our life happy by guiding us in the right path.

When we begin to pay close attention to him, we will feel enveloped by his love and strengthened by his friendship which will also enable us to become loyal friends of others. Remember, often it is through others that God reaches out to us. In the same way, it is also through us God reaches out to others. Let us make sure that we allow God to reach out to others through us in gratitude for his love and friendship for us.   

Fr. Jose Panthaplamthottiyil, CMI

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