As it gets closer to the first anniversary of Father Michael’s death, I find myself thinking of the events of last year in these last days of March. I was so in the dark, so worried, so separated. I prayed constantly. I had last received a text from Father Michael on March 19. He talked about being slated for three days of chemo, then wrote “my car is great!” He’d been watching some tv program on which cars were rated safest. He ended the text with “Just ignore me!” So more confusion was setting in.
Between the 19th and the 22nd, there was no communication. On Sunday the 23rd,in church, they read Father Michael’s name in the intentions for the sick. At Mass on the 24th our pastor said that Father Michael was in the hospital, very confused, with blood irregularities. Then on the 25th, the parish communicated via email that Father M had been discharged and was going back to St Pius for hospice care.
I texted Father Louie at once that I wanted to help in any way I could. No response. In retrospect, I don’t understand why I was not asked to come for a final visit and at least pray at Father’s bedside. According to the obits, Father Michael had family , “a few close friends” and his Dominican brothers present at his death. In my opinion, there were more than a ‘few’ close friends present. Just a feeling.That day, I saw one lady’s post of Father’s status on Facebook; it was recorded at 8:40 am, just minutes before Father Michael’s death. She urged everyone to pray, that Father could still make it, that miracles happen. I don’t doubt the sincerity and love that prompted the post; I understand completely. But I still marvel that someone, privileged to be at Father Michael’s deathbed, would do this. But maybe my mistake was hoping to be invited. I should have just shown up. I will always, always regret that I did not.
I’ve been present at a few deaths-all of them peaceful. Recently, I’ve seen an interview with Beatle George Harrison’s widow where she describes the moment of his death. She wouldn’t be specific but states “Let’s just say you wouldn’t need to light the room”. With Father Michael’s light so bright in life, I can’t help wondering if those present at his death were gifted with seeing a similar phenomenon.But just to be there with Father Michael at the end of such an inspiring, touching, painful journey-had to have been the greatest honor. Father Michael himself was the phenomenon-a life full of service, love and joy!