A Fathom Unknown

shutterstock_380150137Today is the second anniversary of Father Michael’s death. And it is Easter Sunday- a great day to reflect on the reality of everlasting life and love.

This past week , I have revisited all the sad and poignant moments of the last few weeks of Father’s life. Funny how those things never get old….and really never will. For some reason, I’ve recalled how very often in the last few months of his life, Father M would tell me he didn’t take some of his meds. At first, I assumed that he’d just forgotten. (He’d mentioned a few times that he’d wakened at night in terrible pain- and would realize he’d forgotten to apply his pain patch.) So I thought he was absent- minded about it. So dutifully, I’d tell him to go over the pharmacy instructions and that maybe he could make up the doses on some pills.

But later on, I noticed that he’d tell me that he didn’t take the pills and then kind of look at me in a challenging way. I started to respond with “Well, that is your choice Father” or “It’s your life,Father M”.I never asked him for any explanation. I tried to respect his feelings and privacy. I think it was Father’s way of accepting his coming death and also to be truly present to those who loved him.Very often when I visited, he’d drift off to sleep in his chair. I ‘d think “At least he’s relaxed…. he must need the sleep”. But Father M would wake up and be so apologetic; he clearly felt he should be awake and alert. So I could see his reasoning -some of the pills knocked him out.

There was one time, when he’d told me that he hadn’t taken the meds. I responded in the usual way. Surprising me, he got angry and said “But I want to live! I need the pills to live!” I think he wanted a pep talk about complete healing and hope–and I didn’t come through for him. It was hard to know then how to be the best friend that I could.

But Father Michael was sacrificing his comfort and perhaps some of his remaining life-to “be with” me and so many others who came to spend time with him…. to have the pleasure of his company.

I pestered Father Michael for a long while with many questions I had about his life, his vocation, his faith. I received very few answers. Father would say, rather nonchalantly, “It is hard for me to talk about myself because I truly am ‘other-centered’ “. Well, I didn’t completely buy it because I observed many sides to Father Michael; he could be selfish -was not perfect. But this ‘no medication’ thing was again one of the ‘little things’ Father did-a small way which proved  that he was more concerned about others than himself.

At one point, again in those last few months of Father Michael’s life, I started to notice a bit of distancing. He started to speak and make observations in a more hardened way. It was kind of chilling to see this behavior in such a kind, sensitive and holy person. I remember writing to him about it. I felt that he was showing the colder influence of his counselors and perhaps other confidants. I told him outright “Father M, whoever you are listening to, they DO NOT LOVE  the way you do, they are not you. Please be yourself.”

Prior to those last months, though, Father Michael was the very best example of care, concern and love for others.The finest I’ve ever known. The man of the bottomless heart.

“Life’s for the living and death’s for the dead–and the depth of a heart is a fathom unknown”.—————Buffy Sainte-Marie

”The Wonderment of God”

10646633_805091119552224_7151441132180897568_nIn July of 2013, I asked Father Michael if he would pray for the healing of a young man.I only knew of Thomas through his online writings and tweets, but I had always been very impressed by him. This young man, married just three months , had suffered an injury to his spinal vertebrae in an accident. When I first asked Father M for prayers, the prognosis for Thomas was not encouraging. The doctors talked of a “persistent vegetative state” and paralysis. But Thomas improved remarkably, perhaps miraculously. He moved , he talked-and got much better. Thomas was surrounded through it all by loving, faith-filled family, friends, colleagues – and of course his spouse, Natalie.

Well, Father Michael was impressed by the unwavering faith of this young couple and constantly was asking me for updates on them. He would often say things like “can you imagine a couple facing this so early in their marriage? How many people even imagine something like this happening when they say their vows?” Father Michael looked at this young couple as an extraordinary example of a loving marriage. He often spoke of how the love and sacrifices and graces of that sacrament awed him, especially when their effects were so evident in peoples’ everyday lives.

I was dependent on updates from  Thomas’ recovery website to keep Father M “in the know”. I relayed Thomas’ newly recovered abilities and sent Father M some of the pictures that were on the Recovery page. I sent texts whenever I wanted to quickly inform Father M. Father Michael marveled at it all and gave thanks for each improvement in Thomas’ condition. He became more and more fond of this young couple ! He wrote me this email:

“Thanks for the picture! What a lovely couple! I continue to be awed by their faith and the miracle that has happened. God is good and we have to celebrate all the good in life.”

He sent this after seeing pictures of Thomas’ rehab work : ” It is so good to see Tom able to use his body. Isn’t God awesome? He has done incredible work since the accident. It could be a whole different reality”

And this after receiving another picture from their site:”What a wonderful photo. Aren’t we blessed to be connected by this story! Thanks for keeping me updated on this marvelous couple. Blessings and hugs, Fr.Michael”

And this-after several of my text updates:”Thanks for all the updates on Tom. He will be the Thanksgiving and Christmas miracle! Can you imagine their short journey of marriage thus far?”

And on Labor Day 2013 Father M left me a voicemail full of hope for Thomas and himself. I’ll let him speak for himself—

Thomas Peters continues to recover- through much effort and the grace of God. If you would like to know more of his story,here is a link to the recovery web site


So Father Michael saw this all as the “Wonderment of God”. I often think of Tom in rehab and his efforts to walk again -and I pray for him and Natalie. I also picture Father Michael nearby, surveying it all, hoping for the miracles to come. He wouldn’t want to miss them-something to celebrate!

”I Do Will It”

The Leper by Ron DiCianni

So often this past year, I talked to Father Michael about Jesus ‘ healing of the leper, the story where the leper approaches the Lord with a mannerly “Lord , if you wish, you can make me clean.” And Jesus, stretching out His hand and touching the man, replies “I do will it. Be made clean”. There was just something about that statement that spoke to me. I’d read and re-read the words “I do will it” and they were what eventually convinced me that Father Michael would be healed.

It turned out this was the gospel of the Mass on the very first day that Father Michael received chemotherapy. I saw that as a most hopeful sign! I constantly returned to “I do will it” for inspiration as Father M’s journey progressed. I remember Father Michael’s healing service so well. Father Michael told us all that no matter what happened to him , there would be a healing. I know Father Michael is healed according to God’s will. Father Michael is at peace. The rest of us are still a healing in progress, some further along than others. It will take time. Father Michael is irreplaceable, a treasure.

I often read Alden Solovy’s website http://tobendlight.com .His prayers are wonderful, simple yet full of meaning. Today Solovy’s prayer for healing brought back the feeling of intense fervor, the excitement of hope–and the peace of praying for Father Michael. I’m sharing it because it touched me so much today. Perhaps someone needs it:

Simple Prayer for Healing
G-d, grant Your healing power
To all in need,
Those whom I know,
______________ [list names],
And those unknown to me.

G-d, grant Your comfort and consolation
To all who grieve,
Those whom I know,
______________ [list names],
And those unknown to me.

Blessed are You, Adonai our G-d,
Ruler of the universe,
Who lifts up the fallen.

© 2014 Alden Solovy and http://tobendlight.com All rights reserved.