Thursday, December 3, 2009

On faith and grace and dying

By Jeanette Arnquist
Director, Department of Community Services
This story is sad and sweet, and I am compelled to write it. It is about faith and grace and dying. It is a story of the journey of one woman, whom I will call Ann.

Ann was a good friend of my step mom Ruth and my dad. They met some 14 or so years ago, after Ann moved to Hemet and got sober. At the age of 61, Ann, who had been a practicing alcoholic for her adult life, somehow decided that she was tired of being drunk. With $20 in her purse and a small suitcase, she left her husband, also a drunk, got on a bus and got as far away from home as she could. That was Beaumont. She got off the bus and walked into a police station and asked for help. With their assistance, she wound up in a residential rehab for women in Hemet. She remained clean and sober for the rest of her life. She lived by herself. She helped out with the homeless shelter and the recovery home from time to time.

My dad has not been doing well this year. He had a stroke in December 2008 and requires assistance with daily living. He is clear and lucid and remains a person of strong faith. Because of the time Ruth has spent taking care of him, she had not been in as close contact with Ann as usual.

Recently Dad had to go to the hospital as a day patient. While there, Ruth discovered that her friend Ann was also a patient. Ann had gone to the hospital in an ambulance in the middle of the night. When Ruth found her, she was very close to death from advanced cancer.

Ruth happened to be there when Fr. Joseph Deniger came into her room. Ann had been away from the Church for decades. Father asked her if she would like to receive, Ann said she couldn’t. They reminded her that none of us are worthy. She did receive communion and she was anointed. That was on a Thursday.

Ann was released from the hospital on hospice, but she had no where to go, so Ruth and my dad took her into their home. When she arrived at their home she was still conscious and could talk, but she was actively dying. By the next day she was comatose. She died November 16 at 9:04 a.m.

Our days are full of events that might seem to be coincidences or random chances. Yet these are often the grace of God breaking into our lives, giving us unique opportunities for service or even conversion. Let us give thanks for the “random” acts of grace that impact our lives and our deaths, that bring us closer to each other and thereby, closer to God.

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