Wednesday, June 10, 2009
I Believe in Angels
Ms. Conroy, as you know, is a hospice nurse. For the past three months, she has been taking care of a little boy named Israel in his home.
When the pediatric neuro doc referred him, he told the parents and Ms. Conroy that he would probably last a week, maybe two.
Did I mention that was three months ago?
The father of the child was told that when you are on hospice, the nurse comes in and sets up an IV of morphine, your child starts to go to sleep and then they die.
Israel had a bit more time left on this earth to spread his love. In the past week, however, we knew that that time was coming to an end. What we didn't know was how powerful that love is.
Last night, around 5:30, I got a call from Ms. Conroy. She had been to see Israel, had spent most of the afternoon with him, and figured that he wouldn't last the night. She was coming home, she said, to get some rest, in case she was called out at 2 AM.
She was half way home when the call came from his social worker that all signs were that death was imminent. We organized the evening's activities so she could return to his side.
At 6 PM, Ms. Conroy called me again. Israel's mother had been watching her son taking slow, deep breaths - about 4 a minute (normal is 12-16), and feeling completely helpless. So, Ms. Conroy suggested that she might want to get in bed with her son and hold him. It took her seconds to do just that.
As soon as she took her son in his arms, his breathing rate increased, as did his pulse. She spoke softly to him, telling him of the relatives he would see when he got to heaven, and some things to say to them. She sang him his favorite songs, stroking his hair and kissing his forehead.
Ms. Conroy might be accused of being a wimp, but she could never be indicted, much less found guilty - even if the jury were not of her peers. She had to leave the room and call me.
We talked about heaven. We talked about angels. We talked about Jesus. At the end of which she sighed and said, "Okay, I can go back in there now."
Israel's dad came home from work around 6:30. He and his wife are 'illegal immigrants' and he had lost the job he had held for the past 7 years just last week. He got another job on Friday as a laborer. Monday was his first day back to work.
It was clear that Israel had been waiting to say goodbye to his Dad, who also crawled into bed with his son, telling him of his love for him. Telling him how proud he had made him. Telling him that no father could ever want for a better son. Telling him it was time to go to heaven and be with Jesus.
His younger siblings then came in to say their last goodbye to their big brother. Ms. Conroy stepped out again to talk with me. She said, "I just have to breathe for a few minutes."
"Sure," I said. "Just breathe."
She described the scene to me. I let her talk. I told her I was praying. She thanked me and said, "Okay, I can go back in now."
Israel drew his last breath a little after 7:30 PM. He was peaceful. He was surrounded by his family, his books and toys, and more love than anyone could possibly ask for or imagine.
Because they are very poor, the family opted for 'direct cremation'. But, Ms. Conroy had set up a 'private viewing' for the family. The father went out to call the relatives. Ms. Conroy and the nurse's aid and Israel's mom bathed him and then dressed him in a brand new white suit, complete with tie and a 'brown scapula' one of our parishioners had picked up for her which he had been wearing at the time of his death.
Actually, Bill had bought a whole bag full of brown scapula and had given them to Ms. Conroy. The 'old school' Catholics believe that, if you are wearing a brown scapula at the time of death, you will go directly to heaven.
Don't ask. I have no idea.
Ms. Conroy said that, as they bathed and dressed Israel, his mom seemed to get lighter by the moment. The color returned to her face. Her shoulders were no longer slumped.
Ms. Conroy asked her how she was doing. She smiled broadly and said, "My son is an angel now. He is in heaven. No more pain. No more suffering. He is with Jesus."
You know, I can't provide an argument about the existence of God that would hold up in a court of law. I can't prove that there is anything called "The Trinity". I can't prove that there are angels.
But, I believe in God. I believe in Jesus. I believe in the Holy Spirit. I believe in the Mystery of the 'three in one'.
I believe, in the words of one of our Eucharistic Prayers, that "life is changed, not ended."
I believe that this belief is the comfort of our faith.
I believe in The Mystery of our faith.
And, I believe in Angels.
Of your kindness and mercy, please pray for the parents, family and friends of Israel. Please pray also for his care givers, including the incredible Ms. Conory.
Pray with me that Israel's soul, and the souls of all the faithfully departed, through the mercy of God, may rest in peace.
Israel, my little friend, into Paradise may the angels lead you. At your coming may the martyrs receive you and bring you to the holy city Jerusalem. May the choirs of angels welcome you, and with Lazarus who once was poor may you have peace ever lasting.