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Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Thoughts

The death of a loved one is a very tragic event. The day of the death is one of the worst days. You're filled with hope that it's not the last day, that all everyone needs is to go to sleep, and everything will be fine in the morning. Either that, or that you're already asleep and you'll wake up. You may wake up in a panic, but at least everything will be fine. This wasn't the case. The day was real, and the event was not something that a little sleep would fix.

This is the second death that has really affected me that I recall. The first one was my Godfather's, Robert Michael Malone. He was the author of a few religious books, one of which was called The Apostolic Digest, but I think his most popular one is called the Only Begotten. Both are pretty huge works. Seeing him spend hours and hours in his office writing away was extremely admirable. It put a certain respect for the erudite class in me, although I never really wanted to be an author. This was not why I loved him as much as I did.

Even though this was a big part of who he was if not the biggest, I remember him mostly for his antics. When I was younger, he was the funniest man in the whole world. There was absolutely no chance of anyone keeping a straight face around him. He knew so many stories, so many jokes, so many side-splitting facts that he could have any crowd, any time, anywhere laughing. The only other comedian I knew of was Bill Cosby, and Mike put him to shame. I always thought that one day, I'd turn on the TV and I'd see Mike and Bill together doing the Cosby Show, and that it would be one riot after another...

When you're young, the crazy things you come up with, huh?

When I was younger, doctors detected a cancerous growth in Mike somewhere, I believe it was on his neck. They got to it as soon as they could, and they successfully removed it. All I really remember from that is that one day Mike was fine, and the next day he was in the hospital getting operated on. I don't remember getting warning about his condition, although I'm sure I did. (I'm not well known for my memory.) He began to recover rather quickly, as I recall.

In one of his followup visits, they discovered that they hadn't gotten to it in time. The cancer had spread all over his body. It was only a matter of time. And it was. A lot went on in a few years. He lived his life every day. He never stopped to cry for himself -- he had too much to do. His poor wife, Jane, had a stroke many years ago, and she had lost the use of her right side. She was slowly getting it back, but it would never be the same. He had to take care of her, as well as finish his books. They moved to San Antonio, TX (from the Dallas area), where he spent the rest of his life.

My family went down to see him in the hospital. He had shrunk from 6'3", 250lb, down to a small man. But he was still the same. All the time that he had with us, he was always happy. We walked him out of his room, and spent as much time with him as we could.

One of the things which he said that I've never forgotten was when he was in the hospital. He said that there was one nurse which was always very annoying, and he did not want to have to deal with her. Sadly, she was assigned to him. He did not ask for a replacement. The only thing he asked for was help from Our Lady. He could hear her coming from 30 seconds away, and if he was taken out and about, he always kept an eye out for her. Whenever he saw her from far away, or heard her coming, he said an Ave Maria, and from that point on, he never found her annoying. He always had the patience to deal with her. Even though I've never forgotten that, it's hard to apply that to my daily life...

He passed away on October 7, 2000. The day he was buried was my first real experience seeing the death of a loved one and the reactions of the family. I was a pallbearer, so I got to be up front. I saw the military honor guard there, as well as the flag folding. They actually played taps on the bugle. Seeing Jane cry when she received the flag was very hard to deal with, because now she had no one to rely on who could be there for her all the time.

When my grandfather passed away when I was five, I don't remember much, except that Mom went to Oregon for the funeral. Oh yeah, and when she returned a week later, we were all very glad to see her. Life -- and food -- just wasn't the same without her. It affected me, but I don't remember how much. Dad's mother passed away about nine months ago. Her death affected me. I prayed for her, and I got together some close friends of mine, and we chanted the Dies Irae for her.

I have served a Requiem Mass or two, but in both cases, it was someone I did not know.

My second really close-to-home experience (and my closest-to-home experience) is this one: my own dear Father. As I said already, I missed his actual death. There would have been absolutely nothing that I could have done anyway. There is no way to keep him here when God is calling, and even if I could have done so, I would not have wanted to.

Dad was ready to go. Any effort on my part to restrain him would have been purely selfish on my part. My Father had a very full life on earth. He has three children, three grandchildren (with two more on the way), and a family who will miss him terribly. No one chose when he was to die. God decided his time, and when the Lord calls, you have no choice. To choose otherwise is to disobey the command of God.

To any readers of this who don't know me, my statement about not wanting to hold my Father on earth should know that it is part of the fallen nature of man to die. God appoints the time and the circumstances. My unwillingness to save my Father's life is not some Michael vs. Terri Schiavo thing. Poor Terri was not ready to go: her time was chosen by her husband, not by the Author of Life. Dad's time was chosen by the Author of Life -- no one can prevent that.

Not my will, but may God's Eternal, All-Knowing, and All-Holy Will be done. To Him be all honor and glory unto the ages of ages. Amen.
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