A memorial garden - Ivan Grixti

A memorial garden - Ivan Grixti

On October 31, 2018, the Department of Anatomy commemorated the first centenary from when the first body of a deceased person was donated to the department permitting ongoing medical research by young Maltese doctors in the process of becoming fully qualified medical practitioners.

A memorial garden just outside the University chapel was unveiled to mark this first centenary permitting relatives and friends to engage in a moment of silence and pray for the dearly departed ones who gave themselves selflessly even after their passing away.

A few days after this humble yet significant gesture, one of the donated bodies was released for burial – that of my dear friend and ex-student Carmel Agius. Unfortunately, I missed the opportunity of sending in good time a much deserved obituary in July last year. Given the sequence of events I felt that this time round I could put pen to paper and write up this short eulogy.

As evidenced by the priest delivering the homily during Carmel’s decent funeral at the Senglea basilica, Carmel lived his life with intense authenticity. Indeed, it does not matter how long we live but more important is how we live the time spent here in this world. Carmel left an important legacy to all of us who knew him closely, live life authentically.

I had the privilege of tutoring him years ago and then we met again when he decided to take up employment in Valletta. That reconnection had to land itself in following him during the difficult period of coming to terms with his health condition. He immediately realised that suffering has a scope, a meaning, to cherish life and to make the most of it when we are in the best of health. Indeed, he did just that and to his benefit God sent him a remarkable woman, Alison, to be by his side not only in the good times but also through his suffering.

Saintliness is not just for those who lived long and hardworking lives

Through my daily exchange of messages with him I became overwhelmed by how close he came to know God Almighty who rather than praying for physical healing Carmel enriched his faith so that I and all those who shared his tough time learn to let go all of our troubles whatever they might be in His good hands for indeed the Good Lord will always take care of his own.

I am forever thankful to Carmel for sharing his burden with me… for asking me to pray for him… I am thankful to Carmel for sharing his thoughts about God and our faith throughout his last months. Rest assured that I will not forget you and how could that be now that there is this remarkable memorial just outside the University chapel.

It stands to reason that when we observe individuals who pass away at a young age we often question what is the value of their short lives.

It seems that their journeys have been cut off before they could reach any of their goals, realise any of their dreams, or accomplish any of their tasks. Carmel enjoyed travelling abroad a lot and he did manage to do a lot of that and take photographs in the process.

However, short as his life may have been, he does belong to that immense communion of saints, from all times and all places, who stand around the throne of the Good Shepherd dressed in white robes proclaiming the victory of the crucified Christ as described in Chapter 7 of the Book of Revelations.

As argued by the late Dutch Catholic priest, Henri Nouwen, the story ofthe innocent children murdered by King Herod in his attempt to destroy Jesusis a reminder that saintliness is not just for those who lived long and hardworking lives.

These children, and many who died young like Carmel, are as much witnesses to Jesus as those who accomplished heroic deeds.

Indeed, donating his body after his death to the Department of Anatomy was indeed a heroic deed! May he rest in peace.

Ivan Grixti is a lecturer, Department of Accountancy, University of Malta.

This is a Times of Malta print opinion piece

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