Friday, July 3, 2009


Although the words “I love you” were rarely shared between my Dad and I, I will never forget the time when love was shared between us most poignantly.

It was three years ago today, when I received the call at work that Dad was in the hospital and wasn’t expected to live much longer. I immediately began to shake all over. As my sisters and I drove together to Manitowoc to be with him, and on that 1-1/2 hour long drive, we shared our pleasant memories of Dad and tried to keep ourselves calm. In our nervousness about what state we might find Dad to be in when we arrived, we often fell into fits of laughter about silly topics like our hair. As inappropriate as that sounds, it did help to diffuse the stress that we were feeling on that long car ride.

When we arrived at the hospital, we found the rest of the family waiting in the hallway outside Dad’s room. The hospital staff was giving Dad some kind of treatment that was causing him horrific pain. He cried out, loudly. Not one of my siblings or I could hold our emotions in check while hearing him in such pain, and we all broke down and cried.

When we were finally allowed to enter the room, we found Dad to be resting, obviously exhausted. Cindy went to him and told him the names of all of his children who were in the room with him. She said, “We’re all here Dad, and we love you.” He nodded and said, “I love you, too.” It was such a relief to hear those seldom spoken words from him. Then, as he drifted off to sleep, Diann prayed “The Three Beautiful Prayers for a Dying Person” from the Pieta Prayer Book.

I stood next to him, holding his hand, and although he appeared to be sleeping, I could feel that he was squeezing my hand. I took that squeeze to mean that he was grateful that I was there and the he loved me. In the Holy Longing, Ronald Rolheiser states that “any one of us who visits a sick or dying person, regardless of how inadequate and stuttering our actual words might be, anoints that person, just as a priest does in the sacrament of the sick. To touch a sick persons hand, or to speak words of affection or consolation to a dying person does what the woman named Mary did at Bethany for Jesus…anoints them for their impending death.”

I am so grateful that my brothers and sisters and I were able to be with Dad during his last days on earth and that we were each able to anoint him in our own way with our presence.

I know it wasn’t easy for Mom and Dad to raise nine wild children and bring us all around to a somewhat normal adulthood. But, their faith was strong and they passed that on to all of us. We each have embraced our faith in God in our own way and this embrace of faith allowed us to embrace our father with love and anointing before he returned to God and his wife in heaven, for his final, everlasting embrace.


  1. Wow what a sad but great story. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Oh, this just brought tears to my eyes! I lost my Dad in 1995, and we were not with him. How blessed you are!

    I'm sorry to take issue with one thing in order to clarify: while it's theologically conceivable that what you did is like what the sinful woman did for Jesus, it is NOT the same as the Sacrament of the Sick. In that precious Sacrament is contained the forgiveness of Sins that can ONLY take place at the hands of God's own anointed, that being the Priests of Jesus Christ.

    I know you know that, but you may want to consider shifting your spiritual reading away from someone who would confuse that fact. The reality is that many people never call for a priest because they fall into the false belief the their own comfort they give to the dying takes the place of the Sacrament (no thanks to people such as the one you quoted). Souls are lost through such heresy.

    They also fear to "upset" a dying person with the appearance of the priest who can bring them the greatest comfort thanks to Our Lord!

    I'm sure, if your Father was Catholic, he was anointed, and so blessed that you were with him! God bless you and your family! Prayers!

  3. Julie, thank you so much for your thoughtful comment! You might have missed my post for Father's Day (Memories of my Dad). He had suffered with diabetes for over 40 years and had been close to death multiple times. He was a devout Catholic and had received the Sacrament of the Sick on many, many occasions. I know that my last moment with him wasn't a real anointing, not a real Sacrament, but because it was a sacred moment for me, it was a real sacrament-not in the Church definition, but in my heart.

    After my Dad died, I kept right on with my very busy life and never allowed myself to grieve. It took me a full year to finally allow the tears and memories and sorrow to be released from my heart and soul. When I read that quote from Ronald Rolheiser, it gave me so much comfort. It helped me to feel like I was able to be present to my Dad at a time when he really needed me, in a holy way, like I had never been able to do before.

    In a sense, don't you think that every kind thing we do for people we care about is an anointing, a preparing them, for the time when they will pass from this life. We are all called to love one another and help each other to grow in holiness so that we will be prepared to meet God in heaven. You just did it for me, by sending me your very caring comment. You showed me that you care about my soul with your kind words and the delicate way that you aim to keep me on the true path to holiness. I feel blessed and anointed by that.

    And you are right, I do need to be careful about what I read and what I take as gospel truth. The Lord knows that I have made many, many mistakes-dangerous ones that could easily allow the devil to grasp my soul. But, I do like Ronald Rolheiser, and I did like the book. I take courage that he must be a good, true to the Church author because Archbishop Dolan likes him, and I can't imagine Archbishop Dolan ever doing anything wrong! But please, if you know something that I don't, inform me! I'm eager to learn!

    God bless you!

  4. Anne--that post was so beautiful it brought tears to my eyes.

    I lost my aunt a few years ago, and I remember our last phone call--she was so weak, and could hardly talk, and I told her how she had been like a mother to me, and how much I loved her--I felt so inadequte and useless, but your post reminds me that it was sacred anointing and she knew that I loved her even though I couldn't express it articulately.

    Thanks for sharing this post--if you don't mind, I want to put a link on my blog ot it.


  5. **drying tears** what can I say... you have a way of writing that touches the heart! Thanks for sharing a beautiful memory. Love you! ♥

    Happy 4th of July my sweet friend!

  6. Anne ~ I don't disagree with you, I just think we have to be so careful about what we "ingest" spiritually. Certainly God can use everything to reach us, even bad theology that He turns for good and grants us proper understanding. You understood it with a good foundation, but there are those who do not, and that's where the danger lies.

    I also had a hard time after I lost my Dad. I was 20, he died 1 month after I got back from a semester in Mexico, and only a few days before my 2nd semester started. I missed the first day of class as we were traveling back from the funeral. Once back in school it was right to work. School, work on the weekends, etc. It took me MONTHS to handle it, and a long time after that, even. And in that, I lost my faith thanks to heresy in a class. Literally 2 weeks after the funeral, in a required theology class, I learned that "People suffer and die, etc. because God is not omnipotent. He can't help and He doesn't have time to care."

    It destroyed me. I needed true theology and what I got was outright heresy. That's the reason for my comment on Rolheiser. Him, Pennington, Keating, Rohr, Fox, and their ilk are destroying souls, one soul at a time.

    But God is faithful, as you know so well!

    God bless!

  7. Anne,
    I found this post very beautiful and it made me cry.

    What I took away from Rolheiser's quote was that we must be aware of how important our presence is to each other, most especially to the dying. Those moments are so sacred, and too often people refrain from touch, from words, and even from being there. We can and do "anoint" one another by our presence and our touch. We anoint one another with our tears of love, as the woman did for Jesus. Such anointing is precious and holy.

    I don't believe Rolheiser meant to suggest that it is sacramentally equal to the anointing only a priest can give. I'm not familiar with his writing, I admit, but it never crossed my mind to suspect bad theology on his part.

    Thanks for sharing this deeply personal post. I am glad for you that you were there for those final, holy moments of your Dad's life on earth.

    Bless you, my friend.

  8. Annie, you know I'm not Catholic, so my opinion won't mean as much as those of the same faith as you, but I lOVED the quote from "The Holy Longing." I completely agree with it (from a Christian point of view). You don't have to be a priest to anoint someone, or at least I can't find that ideology anywhere in the Bible. We are Jesus' hands and feet. Keep up the good work my sweet sister!