At 3am I awoke to my husband literally crying in pain. He told me it felt like a toothpick was sticking him in his eye. He couldn't even open it to let me view the problem (which is probably a good thing because if there's one thing I'm squeamish about, it's eyeballs.). From the symptoms it sounded like he had a corneal abrasion, and having had one myself, I knew the pain. I had to go work, so I told him to call me if he needed me and I would check in on him later.
The next thing I knew he was calling me from the ER to tell me that they thought he had not an abrasion but a cyst. They weren't sure where it was emanating from and wanted him to see a specialist right away.
I had just arrived at Villanova when I got this call, so I decided to go in the church and make a quick visit. Then I'd have to forget about going back to work and high-tail it to the ER. ( I'm happy to report that there was no cyst, it was just a bad abrasion and medication and pain drops should fix it.)
Father's casket lay open in the rear of the church. He was clothed in white vestments, with a photograph of the Divine Mercy by his side and his Rosary and Brown Scapular around his hands. When I finally was able to get up to the casket to see him, I thought immediately of St. Therese. He seemed to be smiling and he wore an expression of peace that seemed to announce, as my friend described it, "I'm finally here, in Heaven."
I could not help but notice his hands. I had never paid much attention to them when I was with him, but now they appeared beautiful and seemed to belong to someone many years his junior. I don't know why I noticed that but I did.
There were a lot of priests in their black Augustinian robes walking around and some folks that looked like dignitaries in suits, etc. And then there were the little people, the parishioners who grew to love Father so much when he served at St. Rita's. Outside on the steps of the church was a gentleman who had known Father for years. I sensed it was a lot for him to grasp, that this stalwart of the faith has now departed from us. I really had to get to my husband, but I took a few minutes to talk to my friend about his memories of Father. Of all of us who knew him from the Adoration Chapel, I was sure this man was feeling this loss most acutely. I told him how even on the last day that I saw Father, when he was so weak he could scarcely speak, he still had a reprimand for me, yet our visit ended in gentleness, mercy and love.
"It was right that we should call him Father," my friend said, "because he always acted as a true Father. He was firm when he had to be but always loving."
On the back of the memorial cards that were distributed was an inscription from St. Augustine, where he tells us it is OK to grieve over the death of a loved one, so long as it's not grief without hope.
The grief I feel over Father's passing is nothing to compared to the pain I felt when I realized he would not be returning to active ministry at St. Rita's. I worried I would be lost without my strong spiritual compass, pointing me toward eternal salvation. But I took those two crutches he gave me - Confession and Adoration - and I used them at every opportunity. And I tried to get others to use them as well.
Now, there is an added comfort for me in the Eucharist because I know: Where Christ is, there is Father also.
Requiem aeternam dona ei Domine.
Et lux perpetua luceat ei.
Anima eius et animae omnium fidelium defunctorum per misericordiam Dei reqiescant in pace.