Monday, January 16, 2006

My Christmas Break: Part 3

The third and final week of my Christmas Break was awesome too. I stayed and worked at Fr. Paul's parish (my old spiritual director). He has St. John the Apostle in Brandenburg and St. Martin of Tours in Flaherty, KY. The whole week was very busy with M.C.'ing daily Mass (with two on Sat and two on Sun), mass at the convent at St. John's, mass at the nursing home, hospital visits, work at the tribunal, and most memorable: An Anointing, death, and funural.

One day Fr. got a call from a lady he didn't recognize, asking him to come over because her neighbor was dying. I had brought my clerics home just in case I needed them... I didn't expect too... but Fr. asked me to put them on because he thought a time like this would be appropriate. So I hurried to change and couldn't find the tab for my collar! I finally had to borrow one from Fr. Paul and then I couldn't find my black dress shoes! I rumaged all through my stuff and in my car, finally found them, and we hurried on to the lady's house. We went down several country roads until we turned on one that led to her house only to find two cars side-by-side in the middle of the road talking to each other! We had to wait a couple minutes for them to finish and then finally go to their house. I was a little nervous because I'd never seen anyone die before. I asked Fr. Paul if there was anything special I should know. As he reached in his glovebox to get his holy oil and prayer book for Anointing of the Sick he said, "Just stand politely off so the side and don't say anything." "I can do that," I replied.

Apparantly the lady was on hospice care. She looked very old, laying in a recliner hooked up to a breathing machine thing, with all her family surrounding her, crying. A couple of the men there shook our hands quietly without saying anything. Fr. said later he didn't recognize any of them from his parishes. He thinks they were fallen-away Catholics because no one he talked to afterward had heard of the family. We knew they were Catholic because they all made the sign of the cross at the beginning of the Rite. Then Fr. Paul began:

Lord Jesus, you healed the sick:
Lord, have mercy.
R. Lord, have mercy

Lord Jesus, you forgave sinners:
Christ, have mercy.
R. Christ, have mercy

Lord Jesus, you give us yourself to heal us and bring us strength:
Lord, have mercy.
R. Lord, have mercy

May almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins, and bring us to everlasting life.
R. Amen

He then did the Laying on of Hands, then anointed her forehead saying:
Through this holy anointing may the Lord in his love and mercy help you with the grace of the Holy Spirit.
R. Amen
And anointed her hands saying:
May the Lord who frees you from sin save you and raise you up.
R. Amen

Let us pray.
Father in heaven, through this holy anointing grant (Anna) comfort in her suffering. When she is afraid, give her courage, when afflicted, give her patience, when dejected, afford her hope, and when alone, assure her of the support of your holy people.
We ask this through our Christ our Lord.
R. Amen

Then we said the Our Father and Fr. Paul gave her a final blessing.

The above is what I can remember, looking at the Rite, that Fr. Paul said when we were there. I know he abbreviated the rite but it's all a little bit of a blur. I remember how profound it was though to be the only one saying the responses because everyone else was crying. I almost got choked up as we said the Our Father but I held it back because I knew I had to be strong for the family. Fr. Paul said later that it was nice having me there to say the responses because no one is ever able to. He also said he gave her the Apostolic Pardon but I don't remember that part.

Two minutes after he anointed her she died. I think I missed it too. When we first got there I noticed she was having the short rattley breathing that you hear about people having before they die. I made a point to listen to her breathing but then I got caught up in the prayers and the whole moment. I just said Hail Mary's over and over.

... "Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death..."

I was standing sort of above and behind her with Fr. Paul and her family standing and kneeling in front and beside her. I didn't hear her final breath. The only reason I knew she died is because after the rite her daughter walked toward her to give her a kiss and then recoiled toward Father. It was then that I knew. I was surprised at how unassuming it was. She died peacefully and quietly with her family surrounding her. Then I glorified God and his Providence. Despite all the delays -- my having to change, find a tab, find my shoes, getting stuck behind two cars -- the timing of Father's anointing was perfect. It's like she was waiting for us to get there. There were some prayers after she died as well.

We stayed with the family for a while and then headed back to the rectory. On the way he got a call from one of his parishioners saying his mother had died earlier in the week. She died in a nursing home and for some reason Father didn't know about it. We went straight to his house to console him. His wife was a wonderful lady, very hospitable. He was on the phone when we got there, talking about arrangements with his brothers who were out of town. When he got off the phone other relatives showed up at the door and we all sat down together. He (I think his name was Joe) choked up a little bit here and there as he talked about what happened. I think he was in his 50's or 60's. He started to share a prayer that his mother had written before she died, but he started crying and couldn't finish it. We stayed with his family a while longer, discussing funeral plans, and then left.

That day we never heard from Anna's family about a funeral or anything. But we were in contact with Joe and the funeral Mass was scheduled for Friday. I got to serve my first funeral Mass. When it was time to insense the coffin I hadn't lit the charcoal well enough so barely any smoke came out... darnit... But, at the meal following the burial Joe's family was very thankful so I felt good about being a part of that too.

God, Father of Mercies, look with favor on Anna Pendleton and Joe's mother. Bring them into your kingdom where you reign forever and ever. Amen.
St. Mary, pray for us.

1 comment:

laura said...

matt that was an awesome entry. i felt like i was standing there watching the whole thing... death can be such an overwhelming time for those who live but that sounded very peaceful and nice.