By Felix Carroll (Jul 10, 2014)
Her mother, Josephine, was in kindergarten at the time. She was walking home from school when, in one terrifying, life-altering moment, a man grabbed her, dragged her into an alley, and sexually assaulted her.
"She carried a tremendous cross," says Laurie Haas. "One-third of the time my mom was suicidal or severely depressed. One-third of the time she was a normal person, functioning well. The other third she was just angry, bitter, mean, and abusive."
As a result, Laurie herself had a very difficult childhood. The oldest of three children, Laurie survived emotionally because early on, through attending parochial school, she was taught about Jesus, who became her Rock. Since the time she made her First Holy Communion, she has loved the Lord, embraced Him, and turned to Him for strength.
Therefore, instinctively, she turned to prayer when, in 2005, she received a frantic phone call that her mother was dying. Josephine's lungs had ruptured. "It's really bad," her sister told her over the phone. "Brace yourself."
Laurie had been a Divine Mercy devotee since the mid-1990s when she first read St. Faustina's Diary. "Saint Faustina's revelations immediately rang true to me — all of it," she says. "I knew this was of God and that it is real."
She had an hour's drive from her home in Adams, Mass., to the hospital in Albany, N.Y., where her mother was being treated. The whole ride, she prayed the Chaplet of Divine Mercy for the Lord's intercession on behalf of her mother.
Meanwhile, in the hospital, her mother had lost so much blood her heart stopped. Medical personal resorted to administering defibrillator paddles, which successfully got her heart beating again.
When Laurie arrived at her bedside, she found a changed woman. Her mother, speaking calmly and rationally, proceeded to describe how when she was unconscious, she felt that her soul lifted out of her body and went toward a light in the distance. She knew the light was the Lord. She said she could hear Christ's voice calling her.
This is a woman who was a fallen-away Catholic. She hadn't attended Holy Mass in years. Now, here she was describing a conversation she had with Christ while she was laying unconscious on a hospital gurney. She said to Jesus, "I'm not ready!" She said she heard Him say to her "You can have a little more time, then."
"She made a deal with Him," Laurie recalls with a smile.
Her mother said she then heard a big bang, which apparently was the sound of the defibrillator paddles, and she was instantly back inside her body.
She told Laurie, "I'm going to be with the Lord, but I've got a little more time because I told Him I'm not ready to go, and I'm not ready to leave my family. So He gave me this time."
What Josephine got was seven more weeks, and they were seven weeks filled with forgiveness, love, gratitude, and healing.
During that time, doctors confirmed Josephine had fourth-stage terminal lung cancer.
"The amazing part of this story is my mom's personality completely changed after this near-death experience," says Laurie. "My mom had emotional problems that followed her her whole life. She and I would go months without speaking to each other. It was so difficult. It was impossible to have a normal mother-daughter relationship. But there, on her deathbed, everything came into perspective.
"It was like she had one foot in eternity and one foot back on earth. She exhibited the fruits of the Holy Spirit. She was full of love and joy and peace and patience and kindness and goodness and gentleness. She was like a saint. I got to see the beauty of her soul, something I had never seen before, something that had been always there inside her. That's what the Lord saw in her and what the Lord loved, and that's what the Lord brought out.
"So during this seven-week time, it was a tremendous healing and a tremendous gift for my family," Laurie recalls. "And it was, strangely, the best time of our lives."
One of the first things Josephine said to Laurie was, "I know I made your life hell." Until that moment, she had never admitted she was at fault in any way, says Laurie.
When her mother asked for forgiveness, Laurie recalls taking a saltshaker from a dinner tray, sprinkling salt into her hand, and saying, "Mom, this is every hurt, every bitter word, every pain that we inflicted upon each other over the years. And do you want to know how much that means right now?" She then blew on her hand until the salt disappeared. "It means nothing. It means nothing. What matters is that I love you and you love me. That's all that matters."
It was a beautiful time. They would watch Holy Mass on EWTN everyday. Laurie would read the Bible to her. They would pray the chaplet. They frequently spoke in depth about the Lord and talked about His wonderful love and goodness.
"She could clearly see how His hand had been at work throughout her entire life," says Laurie, "and she was so grateful for all of His blessings. She spoke of how she was ready to go and meet Him and of how she was looking forward that day, and that she was not afraid.
"It was just the most blessed, holy time that the Lord gave us. It was all because of His mercy," says Laurie. "I got to see how that intercessory prayer could manifest in our lives. It was unbelievable. "
Josephine died in peace. The hospital chaplain even remarked how he had never seen anyone so at peace about his or her impending death. There was no fear, no anger — none of the typical emotions you see with people who are terminally ill and who know their time is short.
"The Lord's presence was so powerful," says Laurie. "It gave me so much peace about life and death. It showed me that the veil is so thin — that one moment we're here and one breath away, we're there. We're one breath away from being in His presence and having Him take us home. It really changed my whole outlook of life and death and eternity."
As the Lord would have it, this experience served as preparation for another crisis involving a parent's worst fear. One year later, Laurie and her husband received a call that the youngest of her four children, David, had been in a serious snowmobile accident.
"When we were called to the hospital for my son, my husband said 'You need to brace yourself. You don't know what we're going into. He could be really bad.' I said on the drive to the hospital, 'Whatever the situation is, I know David is in the Lord's hands,'" says Laurie.
When they got to the hospital, they were ushered into a private room and informed that David was dead.
"My initial response was to pray, and I silently asked the Lord to please help me," says Laurie. "The very next moment, the first words to come forth from my mouth were words of comfort to my children. I embraced them and said, 'We're not alone in this room. We're not alone. The Lord is here, and He is with us, and He is going to sustain us, and He is going to get us through this. We just need to turn to Him.'
"I truly felt the Lord's presence," says Laurie. "I knew I was not alone. He walked with me every step of the way during the entire tragic experience."
Jesus told St. Faustina, "I am always in your heart." Such knowledge leaves St. Faustina filled with joy, even in the midst of terrible torments. She writes, "Oh, I fear nothing; if God sends such great suffering to a soul, He upholds it with an even greater grace, although we are not aware of it" (Diary, 78).
Laurie says, "The Lord is near to the brokenhearted, and I know His promise to us is true. He will never leave us, nor forsake us."