Anjonius: The Celebration of Life and the Reality of Death

by Rev. Msgr. Dr. Theophilus A. Joseph

"Through the experience with Anjonius, I have learned never to ask God why but to ask God when. In the final analysis, we are all going to die."

Theophilus A. Joseph, a priest on the island of St. Lucia in the Caribbean, describes a particular encounter with death that typifies his reflections on the subject. When called to the home of a little boy named Anjonius, he felt drawn to scripture and prayer even before he met the family. Once he saw the child, suffering in the throes of neuroblastoma, he felt sure Anjonius would soon die. Talking to the boy’s parents, the author became convinced that Anjonius’ suffering was fraught with many deeper meanings for the family. He stayed with the parents through the last days with their child, contemplating holy scripture and recalling other “before death” meetings he had had: a child who had been hit by a car and passed away soon after; a child afflicted with sickle cell anemia who survived; a baby who was severely dehydrated but thrived after proper treatment. He concludes by suggesting that those who are left behind have pain, but death is freedom from pain for the dying and is part of God’s plan for all of us.

Aiming to inspire despite its solemn subject matter, Anjonius could be a comfort to grieving families and a practical religious study guide for those processing the illness or death of close family members. The author, who has written previously about his own near-death encounter, focuses here especially on the death of children. He writes with sensitivity and compassion about this sorrowful topic, lifting it up with a positive vision of one’s departure from earth. He does not speculate on the existence or quality of an afterlife, concentrating instead on how the living handle the death of loved ones. His narrative is interspersed with his own poems and those of others about the joys of life and the reality of dying.

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