Saturday, March 26, 2011

This One Brief Night

I promised my friend I would visit her sister in hospice, so when I got home from work I called her yesterday.  If truth be told, I wanted to be sure her sister had not already passed.  The minute my friend heard my voice she said "You're going to the hospice, right?"  I knew this meant a lot to her. She told me she would meet me there.

I have never been fearful of death or those who are dying.  But when I got to the room,  the woman was all alone.  The disease process had not distorted her as I feared it would and though she did not appear to be conscious, she still looked like herself.  I felt a bit uncomfortable being there all alone, so I sat by her bedside and told her that I loved her and that her sister, to whom she is so attached, would be there shortly.  I tried to hold her hand, but she was burning with fever, and I didn't want to do anything that might cause her more discomfort, although she did not look to be in pain.  I could see her struggling to open her eyes when I mentioned her sister's name and when I reminded her of something we had done together.  After awhile, still waiting for my friend to arrive, I walked over to the window and took out my Rosary to pray it.

The hospice is on the sixth floor of former acute-care hospital, and the view of the city made me so melancholy and aware of how brief life is.  I could see so many places from my childhood, churches and schools, etc. I could never go back to those places and how much more I would have savored them had I known how much they would mean to me later on.  I was thinking that  if I were dying, I would like to have such a view, but in this place, which is the last stop on the journey home for many people,  the view is not there for them but for those who will go on.

Just as I was lost in thought, my friend came into the room.  She brought two sisters I hadn't met or even known had existed .  A lot of things came to mind, such as why my friend has been struggling all alone to care for her sister and a brother who is at home and also very sick.  It appeared that the two sisters had not seen the one who has been sick for a very long time.  I did not want to stay because I felt I was invading their privacy and their need to grieve while their sister was still with them.

When my uncle passed away of metastatic renal cancer a few years ago, he died in a Catholic hospice.  Every room had a beautiful crucifix and there was a statue of the Blessed Mother in the hall, the kind we had in grade school and used for the May Procession.  This was not a religious facility and it bothered me that the walls were devoid of any Catholic sacramental or devotion. I had a holy card with St. Therese as a child on it, so I tucked it under the pillow where my little friend lay dying.  The inscription on it says:

"I rejoice to be little, because only children and those who are like them will be admitted into the Heavenly banquet"

The dying woman, though she was the oldest of all of these sisters, had become very child-like in her illness.  She depended on her younger sister for everything.  I remembered when she was getting out of the car after our long day at Fox Chase, she asked me what she could do for me in return.  I didn't want to ask for anything, but I knew she wanted to do something  in kind, so I quickly said "Say a Rosary for me to get a job that I'll like."  I forgot to remind my friend of this when I spoke to her, but I trust and pray that very soon Someone else will remind her of how her little prayers for me yielded so much more than I gave her in return.

Thank you for reading these posts.  Please believe me that I do not write these things for any accolades, but simply as a way to share in the hope that they might be helpful to others.  If truth be told,  I find it very difficult to be so intimately connected with people I do not know well.  I wish I could offer the Lord a more pure gift by getting over my aversion to situations like this one, but then something tells me that He is ok with what I bring Him.  He knows it is a struggle and perhaps because of it, is is all the more pleasing to Him.


Anna passed away sometime last night.  Please continue to keep her and her family  in your prayers.

Eternal rest grant unto her O Lord and let perpetual light shine upon her.  May  her soul and all the souls of the faithful departed, rest in peace, Amen.


  1. In my prayers...I too will pray for your job situation. You were right around the corner from my house. God bless you for your dedication.

  2. This post was very special and poignant, in so many ways. It touches on how frail we all are. I think anyone could gleam some identification from your words. For me, the childhood views and places not being appreciated for what they would later become was especially moving as I visited my own childhood church today and said the stations of the cross whilst there. The nostalgia was overwhelming. Also your friend's sister trying to open her eyes. I am glad she is with Our Lord now and that her suffering was not as bad as you feared it might be. That is something to be grateful for as i know a few of us prayed specifically for this.
    A beautiful post, thank you.

  3. I think you gave that family something very precious by agreeing to accompany them down that hard road. I am guessing the experience, although not entirely a pleasant one for you, had certain grace attached that blessed you also. It is a singular thing, being present with the dying.

    i am quite sure Jesus appreciates the sacrifice you make to produce this blog. I know many of us are blessed to read it and know you, even this little bit. :)

  4. "I find it very difficult to be so intimately connected with people I do not know well." I wouldn't have thought that, you write with such ease. You would be very good at consoling people, maybe that's why they come to you.

  5. A wonderful blog, though it was difficult to read (not from the writing but the experience), and it must have been more difficult to write, and even more difficult to live through. God bless Anna and God bless you for your kindness.


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