The Death of My Grandfather
I was sitting before a tabernacle at a rural parish in Michigan a month after my Grandfather’s death. He died a day before my birthday. In that moment of prayer, I was thanking God for taking him. I knew he was hurting bad in those last few weeks of his life. Then, as I was sitting before the tabernacle, I closed my eyes and suddenly I was back in that room the morning of his death. It was the morning twilight hour and I saw my grandfather lying in his hospital bed, in the living room of his house. Next to him I saw a man sitting in silence.
The Merciful Touch of Jesus
I could not see myself, but I saw my great uncle sleeping in a chair near the front of the living room and my aunt resting at the feet of her father. However, the man sitting next to my grandfather was the one who stood out to me. The man had a light and a warmth to him. He was wearing a white garment. The house was silent in a gentle and inviting way. He reached out and touched the hand of my grandfather and smiled. At that moment, I looked at the face of my grandfather, his eyes where black and sunken in his head. As the man touched his hand, my grandfather turned his head and I say a tear roll down his cheek. I started to weep with my grandfather in that moment, not tears of sorrow, but of joy. I believe that man with my grandfather was Jesus, and Jesus allowed me to experience the moment of my grandfather’s death.
Being with the Experience
After I started to cry with my grandfather I was back praying before the tabernacle in that little rural parish. I had tears running down my face and I was smiling from ear to ear. An elder lady stood by me and said ‘Sir, I don’t know what happen to you, but Jesus was with you.” The lady touched me on the shoulder, smiled back at me and left me to be by myself. I do not know why Jesus gave me this gift, but he did. As Isaiah wrote “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways (Is. 55: 5).” For months, I told no one and kept this gift in my heart and thanked the Lord for his compassion towards my grandfather and I.
That fall after my grandfather’s death I entered the seminary for my diocese. I would like to tell you all that I lived every moment of my faith life out of this experience, but that would be a lie. Sometimes, the memory of that experience comes back with a force that makes me want to weep again other times it is just a whisper in the crawl spaces of my mind telling me that the Lord was with my family in an hour of need. Christ gave me the gift of faith before my grandfather’s death, but this experience showed me the face that gave me that faith. It was a face of mercy that comforted an old man who was dying of cancer. It was a face that invited another into that moment of compassion and transition. From that moment, my faith was not merely words, professed, but a movement of my heart towards a person whose face could bring tears of joy even at a moment of death.
Restore us, O God; let your face shine, that we may be saved. – Psalm 80: 3