At The Bedside of The Sick and Dying

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My Mother's Beautiful Death

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By Carl Winderl

I was orphaned at 66 — not the usual age for one claiming to be an orphan. Certainly not like Pip, Oliver, or David Copperfield. But then I'm by nature not very Dickensian.

My dad had passed some 20-plus years ago, but my mother died just this past Feb. 26.

I wasn't there at her bedside. I missed her passing by an hour. As she drew her last breath in Boynton Beach, Florida, I was on a Delta flight landing in Fort Lauderdale to be with her.

I hadn't seen my mother for nearly three years. Her choice. She'd estranged herself from my two younger sisters and me. She had become a difficult woman to be with in the last 20 years of her life. She had little or nothing good to say about anyone — or to anyone.

My mother knew cancer was ravaging her lungs and throat — from a lifetime of closet smoking. However, publicly, she was in denial of it.

Finally, on Friday, Feb. 19, she collapsed and consented to be taken to the hospital. She was placed in ICU where her lungs functioned only with the aid of a machine.

Midnight, Monday, Feb. 22, my mother's youngest granddaughter, only semi-estranged, urged me to visit my mom. I made no immediate decision. Instead, I talked to my sister the next day, early Tuesday morning. She reported that the doctors said our mom was on borrowed time. By the next afternoon, her condition had downgraded: My mother was expected to live no more than a week.

Thursday morning my wife and I booked a flight to arrive at 7 p.m. on Friday. My mom passed at 6 p.m.

For the last several years I have been reading up on St. Faustina with intensity, as if I were back in graduate school: her Diary, a biography, and books by Fr. Donald Calloway, MIC, Vinny Flynn, Fr. Michael Gaitley, MIC, and others.

I had especially been listening over the last several years to all of Annie Karto's wonderful, blessed CDs, including her Divine Mercy CD, with its celestial lyrics and ethereal vocals. As soon as I was told my mother had no more than seven days to live, I listened non-stop to Annie Karto's CD while I was awake. I would fall asleep each night and awake each morning with her recording of the Divine Mercy Chaplet running through my mind.

On the flight from San Diego, I continuously ruminated on the Divine Mercy Chaplet.

Why? Because our Lord particularly urged the world through St. Faustina to pray the Chaplet at the bedside of the dying. Jesus told St. Faustina, "When they say this Chaplet in the presence of the dying, I will stand between My Father and the dying person, not as the just Judge but as the Merciful Savior" (Diary, 1541). Since I wasn't at my mother's bedside, I did the next best thing: I prayed the Chaplet in the air over south Florida.

When my wife and I finally landed, we phoned my sister who informed us of our mother's passing.

But my sister also informed us of this: When she'd visited my mother Friday morning in her hospital room, through her breathing mask our mother managed to mumble, "I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'm so sorry."

She said those words until she passed and was gone.

She had left strict, no-nonsense instructions for my sister not to contact me until after she died. And when her will was read, my wife and I and our two children were only grudgingly mentioned as a vague afterthought. And I was OK with that. Why? Because her passing was occasioned by the granting of Divine Mercy. I believe Jesus keeps His promises.

The evidence and hope of my belief? In her Diary, St. Faustina recorded that Jesus stressed, "I cannot punish even the greatest sinner if he makes an appeal to My compassion" (1146).

Thus, I was not saddened, but was gladdened, indeed, for I was convinced of my mother's deathbed release — she who'd for years not asked forgiveness, who was neither apologetic nor contrite. But at the very end, she received unmerited grace, because I and many others say and believe, "Jesus, I trust in You."

Yes, indeed. For as St. Faustina daily prayed: "O Blood and Water which gushed forth from the Heart of Jesus as a Fount of Mercy for us, I trust in You!" (see Diary, 84).

Carl Winderl is a professor of writing at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego, California.

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Cyndi Baker - Dec 5, 2016

Thank you for writing your story of you and your mother with the highlight touch of the beloved Divine Mercy. Indeed it seems some family members real message to us comes at the very end of their lives...sort of like a "selah!" (pause and think about that!). Bless the Lord.

Paul Brady - Dec 5, 2016

A wonderful story. I hope I remember to keep praying this devotion esp the chaplet for the dying. The conversion prayers too for family members.

Alicia - Dec 5, 2016

Thank you for sharing your story. I had similar experience with my sister-in-law in 2012. Despite of deep faith in God, she was not ready and in denial of the nearness of death. Despite of us being miles away from her, I could feel her pain and suffering. However, all I can do for her is pray, and together with my children we prayed the Chapter of the Divine Mercy. Surprisingly after few hours, we called our family and they told us that she seems to be at peace and accepting that her time is near. I researched the Divine Mercy prayer more and learned how appropriate and how powerful the prayer is especially in that occasion. Now my father is bed ridden and for God's special purpose I cannot be with him as much as would want to. However, praying the chapter of the Divine Mercy always make me feel that I am with him and holding his hands in these few months or days that he still have. I am even thankful to God for the gift of time and understanding that wherever I am, no matter how far my distance with my father could be, we can be really close with God in my dad's bedside..

Andy Wanner - Jan 31, 2017

Thank you Carl
I needed this today
-Jesus, I trust in you-

Cindi Boston - Jul 5, 2017

Thank you for the reminder that we have a deeply loving and merciful Savior. Forgiveness is a free gift but often feels like an intense weight to us. The giving of such a gift, just as Christ forgives us, evens the weight scale and brings relief to all. What a wonderful reminder.