Posted by: Thomas Richard | February 8, 2018

A Holy Death

Picture1

Gene

Two faithful Catholic friends many miles away, in Canada, a few years ago met the last trial we will face on this earth: death.  These friends Gaby and her husband Gene followed this blog, sometimes left responses — but we share something much more important than this blog: we share a love of Christ, and His Church.  Some years after Gene’s passing, Gaby wrote her reflections on that time, and shared them with Deborah and me.  The simplicity and depth of Gaby’s thoughts on Gene’s death greatly moved me — I asked if I could post her thoughts here, on the blog.  Gaby graciously agreed, knowing that Gene too would be eager to share anything that might help brothers and sisters in Christ, prepare for and meet that most special day – and meet it well.  Here are her reflections:

September

Monday the 15th of September 2014 : Eugene entered the hospital.

Wednesday 17th of September 2014 : In the morning I saw the psychiatrist, Dr. F. M____, who said Gene will never get better, but he could live like this for years. He had very advanced Dementia, and had all kinds of problems since several years. He had many tests done. He now could not walk alone, he needed help to eat, and he was lost and disoriented.

The Important Decision and the Last Moments

           In the past, Gene and I had spoken about our last wishes. We both agreed to the same wish. In case of severe incurable disease, severe sickness, coma, paralysis, or anything similar, we both want to see the priest, go to confession, and have the last sacraments. This request is absolutely our priority above all else. Afterwards, we both had the following wishes; not to be reanimated, not to be given anything to speed our death, or to lengthen our life. Just let nature take its course.

The doctor explained that as Gene was, he could live a number of years, but choking or pneumonia could take him away anytime. Since he was vulnerable to both of these problems, she wanted to know, that given Gene’s quality of life, did I want them to reanimate him should this happen. I told her what we had discussed, I added that I wanted more time, and I would get back to her.

I then contacted the hospital chaplain so he could give Gene the last Sacraments. This priest, contrary to the purpose of his duty as a chaplain, simply refused!  He promised me he would come as soon as he would be called, day or night, as he was living right next to the hospital. He wants to wait until the last minute. Since Gene was still conscious, and he was in a very vulnerable state, and I knew his desires, this refusal left me most dissatisfied. It left me like hanging in the air. I did not expect this refusal. I could not understand the reasoning, especially since I asked him right there at the hospital! What was the logic? This left me totally perplexed!

I then went to see our parish priest who said he would have done it, if he were at the Oasis, but he did not want to step on another priest’s duty. I could not understand his position, since I knew he had agreed to go see others at the hospital. We sometimes invited him home for dinner. On one occasion, Gene had even asked this priest he agreed to give him the last Rights when the time would come, and our friend had assured Gene in an affirmative answer, that he would. We had been friends since 1974, for 40 years, and yet, when the time came, he refused!

Now being met with again another refusal, I was confused, lost, and felt so alone and abandoned. It was a total let down, by the ones who are supposed to be there in time of need! Being refused for a second time, and by a friend, or so I thought… I did not give my answer to the doctor, and I simply lingered as I felt it was too fast and I was disheartened…

I knew Gene was a man of faith and I did not worry about his spiritual state, however, I also knew he would absolutely want the last sacraments! And we both understood how very special this sacrament is, as it can give all sorts of graces. Moreover, it can even eradicate the punishment due to sin, thus crossing the threshold of this world to eternity, going straight to heaven!

It is obvious that some members of the clergy, even shamefully, priests who work with the dying, do not know the teaching of the Church regarding the last Sacraments!!!

In conversation with him, it is easy to see he surely does not know that this is a sacrament of the living, meaning one must be in a state of grace to receive it, and it should be administered as much as possible when the person is conscious. Also, anyone over 65 may receive the last sacraments if they are sick, if they are to be operated, or if they are getting on in years, even if they are not in immediate danger of death. Gene was in a vulnerable condition, that was a situation which should definitely not have been refused, but one cannot argue with this priest, because he knows everything…

I was upset and, so sad. Looking back, I now reproach myself for not being more firm. I wish I would have aggressively demanded what should have been done!

October 2014

           Thursday the 2nd of October 2014: At 7:30 PM Gene choked. They reanimated him and broke his ribs. A member of the family was not pleased I had not said “no code” because she felt it was simply making her father suffer needlessly. I must say if he would have gone that night, I would have found it really difficult because I was not with him, and I was not ready for that shock. I was called at home, and I arrived at the same time as the priest who had a big smile saying: “See! I told you I would be here!”  Ha…! Yes, he was there… however, he would not have arrived on time if Gene had not been reanimated.  Also, now the last sacraments are given in a rush, while my poor husband is in a coma, and while I am busy with the doctor!! This is not the way a good priest prepares a soul to cross the threshold from this world to eternity!! I called the children as I was told my husband could die any minute.

He was moved to the palliative care unit and from that moment on, Gene was not left alone not a single minute. I said the prayers for the dying. I prayed the chaplet of the Divine Mercy, and the rosary. Gene had his scapular medal on him, but I placed his brown scapular and placed his rosary in his hands along with a small crucifix and a Saint Benedict medal. I also sprayed holy water all around him.

L_____ was the first to arrive with G____. I was so pleased when P___, a friend of mine living at the Royal, came in and asked to say the chaplet of the Divine Mercy, out loud. What a gift! I was so pleased with her, I thanked her many times!

Although I was told that Gene would not live until my son could arrive from Fredericton three hours away, there was lots of time because, to the staff’s surprise, he lived for 24 hours. We all had time to speak to him. We were told that hearing is the last sense to leave. I did not know this, so we were told we should speak to him as though he could hear us, although he was in a coma, and had “the rattle of death.”

Friday the 3rd of October 2014: Our children L____, M____, and G____ were at his side, with me, Gene’s sister J____, and her husband J___ arrived in the morning. We all spent the whole afternoon with him. At night, nearing the end, a few times he opened his eyes a small slit, and I had the impression he could see me with one eye. Afterwards, we continued to speak to him, each our turn, for only a short while. On the last hour I prayed out loud, I prayed and cried. When I did not know which prayer to say anymore, because I was lost for words, I sang some old hymns in spite of crying, but I did not want to stop, and sang until the very last minute. The last one was “J’irai la voir un jour” (I will go see her some day). This was one of my mother’s favourites and it’s also one of my favourites.  At 7:40 PM Gene died, and I closed his eyes.

Saturday the 4th of October 2014: In the afternoon, I went to church to meet with the choir director and chose the songs for the funeral, and I requested an “Ave Maria.” I also asked for, “J’irai la voir un jour” as the last song, when the coffin would be carried out the church. Since I have some English relatives, I had requested two beautiful English hymns, but I was disappointed since the man who sings them so well could not come.

Monday the 6th of October 2014: The funeral was at 2:00. I was most surprised to see my H______ nephews from Fredericton. J____ and his wife H_____, came in spite of having her leg in a cast. J____ came in spite of the fact that he had a very serious injury on his foot, due to diabetes. And P___ came from Three Rivers. It was a real treat to see them! I so appreciated their presence! They are my deceased sister’s sons! M____, our son, did the reading, and L____ our daughter, did the prayers. Father W____, our friend, who had known us for 40 years, spoke very well. He mentioned that Gene was very musical. It was a small but nice funeral.

Gene had many talents, he was especially good at playing Chet Atkins’ unique finger style technique. He played Leona Boyed’s Classical style, and he also enjoyed playing some Flamingo. His music was soft and peaceful. However, he was a withdrawn, shy person, and preferred to play mostly for himself.

Picture2T____, a good friend of mine, send me a picture of a man in the arms of Our Lord. This is the picture of a suffering skinny man holding the crown of thorns. When I saw this, it went straight to my heart, as I found it so striking and with a definite association with Gene… At the end, Gene was skin and bones; he had suffered much through the years. He told me he offered all his sufferings for the conversions of our children.

At the funeral mass this sad picture, along with Gene’s picture playing the guitar, were on the communion rail for all to see.

After the funeral mass, we went downstairs for a nice lunch. It was good to meet members of the family, especially the relatives we had not seen for a long time, and also the many friends.

Tuesday the 7th of October 2014: The burial was at Notre-Dame du Rosaire at 2:00 PM. Now, the custom is that nobody goes to the graveyard anymore. However, I definitely wanted to go, and our children seemed eager to accompany me. The funeral director said a few prayers; I sprayed holy water all over and around the coffin. M____ and G___ are the ones who held the ropes to lower the wooden box. G___ later told me he was pleased to do this, as it was like a “closing, his last goodbye”.  Yes, it was our final goodbye… but he is not forgotten…

****************************************************************************


Responses

  1. Dear Thomas,

    Thanks so much for posting this beautiful account of the holy death of Gene, our friend and brother in Christ, written by his sweet wife and our sister in Christ, Gaby. How I pray that by God’s Grace we and all our brothers and sisters may prepare ourselves well for the end of our time here on earth.

    Both Gene and Gaby were enrolled as Auxiliaries in the Legion of Mary and have been an example to me of great love and zeal for gathering others to love Jesus and Mary more! As St. Louis de Montfort wrote: “God is never outdone in generosity!” May God welcome each of us Home one day, saying, “Well done, good and faithful servant!”

    Dearest Gaby, thank you for sharing God’s Love with us.

  2. Dear Thomas, Thank you for posting this sweet account of Gabby’s husband’s passing. That photo of Jesus holding the elderly man is very very powerful. I pray that I am ready when my hour is at hand. Susan

  3. I will treasure Gaby’s gift to all of us and keep it for strength when the time comes for our family, thank you.

  4. Thank you so much, Thomas! I truly appreciate this. I hope this will serve as a reminder to all, that they must do everything in their power, to prepare themselves, and their loved ones, to cross the threshold in a state of grace, and make sure they receive the last sacraments while they are fully conscious. It is vital to participate with this most wonderful and miraculous sacrament in the best way possible, fully conscious, in peace, with reverence, with serenity and in prayers.

    I wrote a book on confession; “How to make a good confession according to the teaching of the Catholic Church” I included the sacraments and explained all the most important teaching of the Church. With the French book, it sold so fast I had to make a second edition.

    At mass one day, I met a friend who told me he had read my book. He was still coming to mass, and seemed fine, but I was told he was dying with cancer. Just a couple of weeks later, at his funeral, I was most impressed when I was informed about the way he departed. I learned he had invited the priest for a family gathering with children, spouses, and grandchildren.

    They all enjoyed a good family meal, and afterwards, he explained to all about the last sacraments, according to the information he had gotten from my confession book. After his teaching with words, he was then teaching with his actions, as he went to confession. The family afterwards, gathered around to assist for the reception of the holy oil, and the Eucharist. This was done, in a reverent manner.

    Can you imagine how important this must have been for the family? What a huge example for his children and grandchildren. He lived a good life, but his actions surely made an impact, especially on the young minds and hearts of those present. This is an example of how it should be done with the family, in faith and in prayers. A peaceful way to prepare for the most important moment of life, when we cross the threshold of this life to eternity!

    If some of you are interested to buy my English book on Confession, I still have some. I was surprised that the English did not sell as well as the French, If you are interested, it’s only 10.00, it’s small, but loaded with information according to the teaching of the Catholic Church. I even got three letters from the Vatican for writing it. A beautiful gift especially now in time for a good Easter confession. $14.00 US dollars will cover the postage.
    Gaby Burke Vienneau
    80, Main Street, Apt 340
    Bathurst, NB, Canada

  5. How blessed we are that your dear friend, Gaby, sent this account of the last moments of her husband’s death. I had just asked you both about this subject very recently! Thanks be to God! And, thank you, Thomas, for posting this.

    A couple of things struck me very close to my heart. My mother has on her gravestone (as requested by her) “Well done, Good and faithful Servant.”

    The other was how she put into words the desires of her and her husband when the time came for decisions about end of life health care. It was the answer to how to express my desires in a very simple way!

    “In case of severe incurable disease, severe sickness, coma, paralysis, or anything similar, we both want to see the priest, go to confession, and have the last sacraments. This request is absolutely our priority above all else. Afterwards, we both had the following wishes; not to be reanimated, not to be given anything to speed our death, or to lengthen our life. Just let nature take its course.”

    I am so sorry that she ran into a couple of “walls” with the Priests. But, her husband did finally receive the sacraments, even though in a comatose state. God worked it out anyway. Not completely, as desired , but enough according to God’s will.

  6. Thank you so much, Thomas, for asking Gaby’s permission to share her very personal experience with us. I was very moved and impressed by her faithfulness and have heard other sad recounts of similar situations. Gaby’s and Gene’s love for and value of the sacraments is encouraging to me as I long to be in full communion with the Church.


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