My buddy, the Barking Spider, calls John Paul II "Pope Rock 'n Roll." He's right.
A lot of people have been wondering why a pope doesn't just retire "when it's time." Some have wondered longer than others. Or even longer.
Considering how friendly a hearing euthanasia gets in certain circles, one should be grateful that nobody is firing up the disintegration chamber for the Holy Father. I think this stage of his pontificate is the most challenging yet: to serve with dignity in old age and physical infirmity, and more and ever more to rely on others' service and aid while remaining grateful and graceful.
Yet, if I can speculate on John Paul II's character, I think that he's trying to clear a higher bar. I think God had chosen him, for many years, to show how we ought to live in the world - in constant prayer, with an unshakeable regard for the sanctity and dignity of human life. Should he be spared us until the next World Youth Day celebrations, we will again see the delight and the hope he has in the young.
But time grows short, and God has one last task for the Holy Father - I think that He has asked John Paul II to show us, now, how to die. We need to see it. The Pope, as is his way, has chosen to accept this challenge, and to die publicly, with undimmed joy and hope, serving to the last.
Those of us in our own youth (I'm 32), who have known no other pope (save for the brief interlude of John Paul I), don't know yet how blessed we've been.
(Perhaps later, I'll take up the silly assertion that JP I's "brief reign" was too short to impact the Church. It was certainly enough to impact JP II.)