The words just stared up at me. I thought I had misread them. But after a second and third reading, I knew I had to find the story and person behind them. “I have been given the grace of 4th stage cancer. The enclosed is for your Shine of St. Jude. Please pray for me. Bob.”
I called Bob and left a message that I would like to visit and personally anoint him. I reminded him that we are priests first whatever the ministries we perform as Dominicans and that we wanted to be there for him as he had been there for us over the years. Forty- eight hours later I received a call from Bob and met him the next day.
When I arrived he said that I must not have gotten his call. It was a bad day and maybe another would be better. I hadn’t, but he seemed glad I had come anyway saying, “I feel better already.” We talked for a good while about the business he owned, his family, including his wife, whom he had lost after 52 years of marriage. We talked of the daily faith that was as natural to him as breathing.
Then we turned to his note.
He said no to all chemotherapy knowing his case was terminal. “And for what, Father,” he asked me. “I’m ready to go, Father. Isn’t that the goal of our lives, to see God?”
I said, “You called it ‘a grace,’ this fourth stage cancer. How did you mean that?” He said: “I meant that I trust God. I have been given the gift of faith in Him to accept the reality he has put before me. My kids are not happy with my decision, my coworkers think I should fight this, but if it is terminal and this is my time, why am I fighting meeting my God? Sinner that I am, I believe in God’s mercy and that he will eventually take me to Himself.”
As I anointed Bob and held his hands through the Our Father, the tears started to fall. For both of us—a poignant recognition of the one to whom we were praying, whom Bob would soon meet. At the door, I asked him to pray for me. I also asked permission to give him a hug. As I did so, he gave me a bear hug and said: “I love you Father.” I had the strongest sense he was talking to someone else. Bob only knew me for an hour and a half. He was talking to somebody beyond me, somebody whose Son he had just received in Holy Communion. Bob went to Our Father a week later.
In this month of November when the universal Church celebrates all saints and all souls, I wanted to share a powerful story of this one soul I had met ever so briefly. Your support is a catalyst for the impact of encounters such as this with Bob and so many others like it still in God’s future plans. May this pastoral moment I was privileged to share with Bob be a reminder of the relevance of religious and the priesthood today as well as of your generous part in our mission!
In the spirit of St. Dominic,
Fr. Andrew Carl Wisdom, O.P.