Friday, June 12, 2009



There is a wonderful older gentleman in our parish, who prays the ENTIRE rosary every morning...ALL the mysteries...before he comes to open the church, and prepare for the liturgy each day. He and his wife attend the senior's club at our parish, and on Wednesday another senior club elsewhere. After the Wednesday meeting they bring bags of non perishables to the parish food pantry. They are true role models for the rest of us in our parish family.

I can't pray the WHOLE rosary every day but I do pray the mysteries that were suggested by Pope John Paul II for each day. On any given day, I am also in the middle of at least one Novena for someone's intentions, I pray the Chaplet of Saint Michael, speak to God about whatever is on my heart, close my mouth to allow my soul stirrings to speak to God directly, and of course, stop everything and listen. is the most important part of ANY relationship...and, the MOST IMPORTANT PART OF OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD!

As I was praying the Sorrowful Mysteries this morning, my heart was led to meditate on the last day of my aunt's life. I received the monthly mailing from Hospice yesterday. It seems I am right on target with my grief and mourning. Seems that even when you think you are prepared for a death, there is still some shock when it actually occurs. Then, you go into a sort of automatic pilot to get the things done that need to be done.

For me, working in the church, it was not only the ritual of my aunt's funeral and burial that I was involved in at the time, but the ritual of Easter and the Easter Sacraments, the ritual of First Holy Communion for our Level 2 boys and girls, the ritual of End-of-Year Gatherings, Meetings, and Potluck Dinners for the rest of our program, and the lesser ritual of concluding one instructional year, and preparing for the next. There wasn't a whole lot of down time.

The down time is beginning, now, and I have more time to think, question, and second guess myself. Years ago, in my other parish, I had been trained as a bereavement counselor. One of the handouts was about the stages of grief built upon the original Kubler-Ross model of 1969 but with an added dimension of hope after the pain. I googled this SEVEN step model and found that I am right on track...lucky me.

Anyway, as I was praying through the Sorrowful Mysteries this morning I flashed back to the last day of my aunt's life...Good Friday, April 10, 2009:

My older son was home from work that day, so the two of us got up early and went to the hospital. It was very fitting that it was my older son who joined my aunt and I for our last prayers together. You see, he was born on my aunt's birthday in 1986. When he was little, I would celebrate Auntie Dee's birthday and my son's together. My favorite picture is from my son's second birthday...boy, did he LOVE cars. At the time, Baskin-Robbins made a car cake. I bought two that year, one for my son and one for Auntie Dee.

Apparently, it meant a great deal to my aunt that Stephen was born on HER birthday. As I was going through papers to make sure I could keep ALL the important bills up-to-date while probate is ongoing, I found a complete set of my son's pictures from birth to high school graduation. Auntie Dee did not have a complete set of anyone else's pictures not EVEN my younger son which I HAD given to her...ONLY her great-nephew born on her birthday.

I guess I should have realized long before that how much he meant to her...after she had driven into the front of the garage (which my husband repaired) it was my older son who received the car when she gave up her license around 2002. He was too young at the time to drive because I made him wait until he turned 18 to get his license. But, when he did, it was my aunt who had given him his first car...and a sturdy one at that...which made me very happy. I NEVER want a repeat of the tragedy of my brother!

Wow, God has put a great deal on my heart to say, today...back to the last day of my aunt's life:

My son and I arrived early at the hospital. The doctor had increased the morphine and decreased the interval time so my aunt did not seem to be in as much pain as she had on Holy Thursday. I knew that the sense of hearing is the last to go so I greeted my aunt and began to tell her how sorry I was that she was suffering so very much. I told her that I loved her and that they were going to stop the antibiotics, because even in mega doses they were not strong enough to heal her. I told her it was time to look for the light (is there a light, I don't know...but I do know Jesus IS the light) and to find Jesus and let him take her in His loving arms...there she would find peace.

Overcome, I retreated to the hall just outside her door, where my son was watching and waiting, holding my pocketbook and jacket. I sobbed as quietly as I could so my aunt would not hear and then, I returned to pray with or maybe more precisely over her.

I began with the Our Father, the Hail Mary, and the Glory Be. Then, I proceeded to ask different saints to join in support of us. Because, she loved him so, and because he is the patron of a peaceful death, I asked Saint Joseph to help my aunt cross over. I then went down the line of saints that are familiar with my all too frequent requests: St. Peter (the keeper of the Keys), St. Frances Cabrini (my family's patron), St. Anthony, St. Jude (patron of lost causes), St. Therese, and on and on, down to the lesser members of the Communion of Saints: my dad (whom my aunt spoke about often with respect and admiration), my brother, my aunt's brothers, and my grandparents and hers. I asked them all to lead my aunt to heaven's gate and to stay with her and help her adjust to her new way of being.

Several times, I retreated to the hall, so my aunt would not hear my sobs. I wanted her death to go more easily than her life. Through the entire time I prayed, my aunt made little noises. I KNOW IN MY HEART, SHE HEARD AND UNDERSTOOD RIGHT TO THE VERY END. I stayed with her and prayed for hours. A little after noon, the director of hospice came to meet me and discuss my aunt's future care. She needed some papers I did not have with me and so, my son and I left to retrieve them from home.

When we returned, I mentioned to my son that the long walk to my aunt's room was like the green mile. I told him, I hoped we would find a miracle when we got to Auntie Dee's room: that she would be sitting up eating lunch, asking how her beloved cats were. This was my son's first up front and personal experience with dying. He was in a sort of shock all his own just watching and listening to everything I was praying, saying, and doing. He just looked at me...we both knew this was real life NOT a fairy tale.

When we got to the room, we could not go in right away. My aunt was being cleaned, her bowels had let go. The nurses were dressed in what I can only describe as haz-mat gear for this cleaning task. The doctor and the hospice director came to speak with my son and I in the empty room across the hall. The doctor again told me how sorry he was, but, there was no hope. We enrolled my aunt in hospice and when the nurses were done I took up my place perched on the windowsill at the foot of my aunt's bed and continued praying.

I kept telling my aunt over and over again that she would find peace in Christ's loving arms! I told her to look for my Uncle Chick whom every weekend, when he was alive, would go visit my aunt and grandfather and do chores around the house for them, when we all still lived in Queens. I told her to look for Uncle Patsy, whom I also remembered would visit as much as he could. I went down the line of her brothers, her mother, father, her grandmother, who lived with them while she was growing up. I told her to look for Whitey, the cat she had when I was a little girl and the two Gingers (yes, I know that animals do not have the same souls as humans...but, I don't know who will greet us in heaven)!

As I spoke, Auntie Dee would make noises, I would move to her side, I could tell she was trying to tell me something...but no words came out.


On Ash Wednesday, my husband and I had brought ashes to my aunt. During Lent, my husband brought communion to Auntie Dee every Saturday after the Vigil Mass. The three of us, together, began this past Lenten Season with prayer and ritual. At 2:30PM, I left my aunt's bedside because I knew there was something else I needed to do for her.

My son and I went to church for the Good Friday service and Veneration of the Cross. When it was my turn to bow before the cross to venerate, I brought this prayer to my Lord:

"Lord Jesus, I bring to the foot of Your Cross the immortal soul of my aunt, Dora Grottano. Please forgive her, her sins, grant her a more peaceful death, and welcome her into Your loving arms in Paradise."

It was the very next day at 8:34AM, as I was preparing to return to the hospital that the call came: Auntie Dee had passed peacefully, earlier that morning.

Prayers...soul stirrings...heart ramblings...this is the way we forge relationship with our Creator, His Beloved Son, and our Advocate, the Holy Spirit.

And, when we take ALL of it to the Cross, we cannot fail!

What is on YOUR heart and soul today?

What is confounding YOU in YOUR life?

What pain do YOU need to heal?

What do YOU need to take to the Cross today?


No comments:

Post a Comment