School of Life & Death



Faith takes us beyond our own logic to a place where we trust God even when we don’t understand.

Sitting by father’s bedside, I was experiencing an emotional roller coaster as I knew my father would pass anytime, any day.  How could I contain myself?  I was thinking about my childhood days when my father would take my two brothers and I to visit parks, castles, museums when we lived in Germany.  The day he brought home a horse when living in Paraguay.  The times we played in the snow while living in Oklahoma and the holiday meals at home; yes, Dad always sat the head of the table while family gathered around.  Such memories!  As I looked at my father, not able to communicate due to his health condition, I knew he could hear me. He was well aware of my presence.  Spending several hours with him, there was a lot of silence and prayer; prayer and silence.

Dad was in the hospital, in I.C.U., and then hospice care for 24 days. My father lived a full life of 87 years, including a beautiful marriage of 62 years, and a full military career which took him to various parts of the world. As a faithful man, husband, father and servant of the Lord, his love for God and the Catholic faith led him to be involved with his Church community—feeding the homeless, leading the Rosary in the parish community, and assisting with various ministries.

I had learned that family, friends, and acquaintances were praying for my father to have a peaceful, holy and painless death.  What a consolation!  I leaned towards my father, “Dad, there are so many people praying for you.””

Symbol for the virtue of Hope, a mosaic at the Mount of Beatitudes in the Holy Land

Symbol for the virtue of Hope – A mosaic at the Mount of Beatitudes Chapel in the Holy Land

Was it possible for my father to have a peaceful, holy death?  I knew it could be with God’s blessing, with His grace and mercy.  But I felt I was on an emotional roller coaster; sadness, sorrow, tears, and questions about death ran through mind.  If I hadn’t grabbed on to the anchor of faith and hope in God, the Almighty,  I would have sunk and the temptations of despair, anger, and doubt would have prevailed.

My faith in God assured me of His promises: “Come to me all you labor and are burdened and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).  I could picture the Redeemer, the Lord, saying these words to my father. If we have confidence and trust in what God has revealed, we will always have hope. Six priests visited my father in these 24 days, hearing his Confession, reconciling him to God, preparing Him to meet his Heavenly Father by anointing him and praying with him.

My father was surrounded by the family when he took his last breath at 6:00pm.  Before that, we spent the entire afternoon in silent prayer; it was a vigil for his entry to Eternal Life!  These 24 days became a school of life and death, teaching me that life is so precious no matter what the situation may be.

Losing a parent is painful; it hurts. It is what one experiences for loving, for caring, for respecting, for honoring.  I empathize with you who have lost a parent—it is difficult. For those who still have your parents: Take time out to contact them, communicate your respect and your love for them. Talk about good memories.  Be considerate of people who are sick, lonely, and have no one to care about them.  Offer a prayer, or if you know them, a visit and kind word can do wonders for that person.

“I plead with you—never, ever give up on hope, never doubt, never tire, and never become discouraged. Be not afraid.” –Pope John Paul II, In My Own Words

Pilgrim Center of Hope was named for this reason; a reminder that we are on a pilgrimage to the Heavenly Jerusalem each day of our lives. We are here for you! Visit our website and find spiritual encouragement and tools for your daily pilgrimage.


6 responses »

  1. Thank you Mary Jane for sharing. I had the same feelings with my Dad when he died in 1985 at the young age of 63. I was not ready to let go and struggled for many years. Eighteen years later I finally let go and was at peace, as I had started on my spiritual journey, again, something my father taught me and my siblings about always focusing on God. When my died in 1994 she told me to continue my spiritual journey so I could be happy again. She died at the age of 69. I am now 67 years old but my love for the Lord and the Blessed Mother have gotten stronger through the years. Blessings sister in Christ.

  2. Oh Mary Jane, I am weeping tears of sorrow and gratitude as I read your post. Yesterday morning Feb. 20) I woke up to the news that my paternal grandfather had taken his last breath at 4:30am earlier that morning. Though he was my “grandfather” according to the family tree, I loved him as a father. We had a father/daughter bond as far back as I can remember as a child because my biological father was often absent from my life. This morning the family is making the funeral arrangements. Yesterday and now this morning have been very emotionally trying.

    Mary Jane your post came at just the right time…I really needed to read it, and God knew that. Thank you. Thank you for allowing our Heavenly Father to work through you to comfort others. God bless you and God bless the ministry.

    Peace be with you.

    • God bless you with His peace as you mourn the loss of your grandfather. Keep trusting in the Lord’s mercy and hang on to your faith and hope in Him.

  3. It is a reminder to all of us that still have the blessing of having our parents with us to keep them close to our hearts while we can still love them. Thank you for sharing Mary Jane, your memories and your father’s life are beautiful….such memories should always be shared…they lift my heart.

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