Archive for the ‘a priest waits with us in emergency’ Category

Because a neighbor had called the parish rectory on the afternoon of my daughter Mary’s suicide, Father Don showed up in the private hospital waiting room where John and I had arranged ourselves in chrome and plastic chairs. My husband and I were waiting for the medical team to save our daughter. We were waiting for hope, for some sign that Mary’s overdose had not been lethal, after all, and that she would wake from her coma. We were quietly frantic.

Father Don rapped on the door, walked in without pleasantries, and sat down with us. It was late on a Sunday afternoon, and he may have been at home relaxing over football when the call came, but he showed up for work wearing clerical black and Roman collar. He’d just gone behind restrictive double doors to be with Mary and celebrate the sacrament of the anointing of the sick. But he told us he’d anointed only Mary’s feet because her forehead and the palms of her hands had been occupied by medical paraphernalia.

Over my dying daughter, Father Don had said these words: “Through this holy anointing, may the Lord in his love and mercy help you with the grace of the Holy Spirit. Amen. May the Lord who frees you from sin save you and raise you up. Amen.”

Along with the application of healing oil, Father Don had prayed for Mary’s help, for her release from sin, for her salvation and resurrection. It was not to be the last prayer he offered during our time together in the waiting room that Sunday. When the lead doctor finally opened the door and told us Mary had died, Father Don offered one last prayer of commendation beginning with comforting and piercing words: “Go forth, Christian soul, from this world . . .”

In the two-hour period between those formal prayers, Father Don sat quietly with John and me. He asked no questions and offered no advice. He merely listened to our horrified account of the afternoon. But there was really nothing “mere” about his listening. I finally came to regard his listening presence as the essence of caring about someone in crisis. I finally came to think that anyone ought to be able to provide personal presence and careful listening. Over the course of many years, I also came to realize how few of us actually do.

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