Tomorrow will be one month that my dear father passed away and our family really misses him.
My mother wanted me to share with you the events of his death in the hopes that it will inspire others to help prepare a loved one for death.
For whatever reasons he may have had, my father did not attend Mass regularly. This did not mean he did not love the Church. He often proclaimed his love of the Catholic Church as well as stating proudly that he was and will always be a Catholic.
He did not understand the "modern" changes that had occurred in the Church and would not hesitate to scoff at some of them. One change he did not like was the fact that a lay person like his daughter (yours truly) was permitted to be an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion. Another thing that troubled him was that the laity received Holy Communion in the hand.
In the past year or so, actually, since my father turned 80 in 2007, I tried to get him to go to confession. His response was no surprise "Confession is for sinners" :-)
He did have a devotion to the Blessed Mother, especially through her title of Our Lady of Fatima, St. Francis of Assisi and to St. Jude Thaddeus. Of course, being Peruvian, he loved Santa Rosa de Lima (he and my mom actually named one of my sisters after her) and San Martin de Porres.
So that was my dad's spirituality in a nutshell.
On March 28th, my father suffered a massive heart attack. The same day one of my brothers and I flew to be with our family. That one brother did not leave my father alone for even a moment while he was in the hospital. He slept at the hospital for the week following my father's heart attack and ultimate death a week later on Palm Sunday.
During that time while my father was on life support my mother went into action...spiritually speaking.
The first thing she did was to place the Brown Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel on my father and made the ER personnel promise not to remove it, no matter what. You know what? They promised.
She would sprinkle my father from head to toe with Holy Water. She prayed the Holy Rosary constantly for our Lady's intercession. We all prayed the Chaplet of Divine Mercy continuously.
The chaplains of this Catholic hospital as well as priests who were friends of our family, came by regularly. My father not only received the anointing of the sick, but also many blessings and prayers from these wonderful priests as well as the apostolic pardon.
Exactly one week from the date my father was brought to the hospital, we decided to abide by his wishes and have the life support disconnected. The woman in charge of disconnecting his life support just happened to be a former sister and friend of the family. Because she knew my family very well, she couldn't bring herself to do the disconnecting. She asked the very kind and compassionate young resident in charge to do it and he did.
Our family, mother, brothers, sisters surrounded my father that Saturday night into early Sunday morning. We did not leave his side.
He passed away peacefully early Palm Sunday morning. There was no sign of an agonizing death.
My father was considerate enough to pass away at that time, thereby giving us time to make it to Palm Sunday Mass in the Chapel.
He died surrounded by those who loved him the most.
You can see by what I shared above that my father died a happy death.
Then we began to see signs and connections that God sent us to give us comfort.
First of all, he was admitted to St. Joseph's Hospital. St. Joseph is the patron saint of fathers and of departing souls.
His life support was disconnected on First Saturday of the month. First Saturdays are dedicated to Our Lady of Fatima.
The nurse that day was named Fatima and her birthday just happened to be May 13th. The feast day of our Lady of Fatima.
Remember, my father had a devotion to our Lady of Fatima.
He passed away on Palm Sunday.
And, one more thing I would like to share and I hope my sister doesn't mind too much. My other sister was driving home that day, inconsolable at our father's death, when she spotted a license plate of the car in front of her that said "Going to Heaven". If that wasn't enough, the song playing on the radio was "God is Speaking to You."
So you see the importance of helping a loved one die in the embrace of the Catholic Church's sacraments, blessings and prayers.
Lastly, in our family my father was known as an avid collector of stuff. He collected mass amounts of stuff he liked...movies, baseball cards, tools, etc. Well, after he died, he started a new collection...Masses said for the repose of his soul. We have been blessed by the generosity of family and friends who have provided for Masses to be said in many states, churches, etc.
Thank you all!