the final days
The Pope [the cheering, adoring crowd] had come to glimpse -- youthfully vigorous, luminary, sure of his every move -- was gone. .... Slowly, painfully, John Paul made his way to the altar. His familiar silver crosier stabbed angrily at the red carpeting marking his path -- its crucifix, and his body, arched forward in similar agonies. No longer was his staff a symbol; without it, he would have fallen forward like any other man with a new stainless-steel hip encased in aging muscle ... having reached the platform, there was only a dull thud upon wood. And another.
from Paul Wilkes, "This Pope -- and the Next" The New York Times Magazine, December 11,
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