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

http://tpetersrecovery.blogspot.com/

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.