Compassion and orisons for opioid victims

Compassion and orisons for opioid victims

Since embalmers and funeral directors are sometimes mentioned humorously “as the last persons to let you down,” I was pleased to read about one compassionate practitioner touched when performing his duties on young opioid victims. As a former English teacher, I thought he reflected tubercular poet Keats’ line when he learned he would die young: “Here lies one whose name was writ in water,” aka gone too soon.

Too many, Gov. Raimondo said recently about our ranking fifth in the nation in such opiate deaths, 1,250 in the last five years, and nationally 33,000 last year alone. It also reminds me of poet John Donne who once decried even the loss of a clod of Europe as diminishing the continent.

We French Canadians are known for our great devotion to the dead, and as a retired college placement counselor, I read many obituaries, curious about the education of the deceased, their jobs or professions, and their promotion of the common good. The remembrance of the dead is one of the great hallmarks of any culture, and also the recommendation of the Old Testament, since almost every decedent has a stay in Purgatory, a way station before heaven, “to brush off the dross from their overall golden deeds.”

Often I’ve heard this orison at funerals: “May their souls and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.” In fact, the great St. John Vianney (the Cure d’Ars‚) for whom many churches are named, like the one in Cumberland, said many will be surprised on the last day about whom are blessed. I became convinced when murderers Timonthy McVeigh and Al Capone died in God’s graces on their deathbed, and of course the Good Thief on the cross with Jesus.

About so many young obituaries recently, I also wondered how many opioid victims there are. That’s why I admired a mother who revealed that fate in her young son’s obituary, courageously sharing her loss and hopefully a caution to users. Does it lessen their culpability that “this earth is subject to futility,” and that perhaps some opioid victims are “more sinned against than sinning,” as a poet once said? How often is it the curse of poverty, family disruption, neighborhoods as seedbeds of drug use and violence, mediocre education, hollow existence, and lack of moral development?

Rene Tellier

North Smithfield