On the Death of my Father
The purpose of this commentary is to
share a few thoughts and reflections on the passing of
my temporal father, Stephen William Humphrey Jr., into
eternal life. Originally he had been diagnosed with colon
cancer, that had not metastasized, but he had a reoccurrence
that made him go down hill. Ultimately, it was a staph
(short for "staphylococcus") infection that
got into his blood that did him in.
My father's passing
was a long, drawn out one where his health declined over
a period of years. Reading
theology and religious books is one thing, living through
these situations and applying them the best you
can is another. Don't be judgmental of others in similar
situations until you have gone through an experience
like this yourself. There had been numerous surgeries
some unpredictable reactions to medications. Sometimes
it made him go crazy. For those who have NOT had to deal
with a death in the family and:
- continual hospital visits, sometimes
at different hospitals;
- hospice visits to my parents home;
visits to various nursing homes; and most especially
- the end-of-life questions the
doctors kept asking my mother
it can have
a stressful and emotional drain on, not only the immediate
family, but in-laws as well.
That was the case
in our family and especially on my non-practicing Catholic
mother, Dorothy, who has never been catechized in the
Catholic Faith and shows no interest.
Because my dad "lost his
marbles" over the last few years, she had to put
up with a lot of verbal abuse. Mom
may have tried to remind him to take
his medication OR thought of
something that would make him better off; nevertheless,
dad always tended to get upset with her and her good-hearted
suggestions. Dad always thought he could get back to
normal and many times was too eager to get back to normal
without the help of anyone. I tried to remind her not
to take his "do-this,
do-that, NO-do-this, do-that"
attitude, personally. As a matter of fact, I was quoted
many times saying that:
"My father's pride is going
to kill him."
Despite the last few years of my father's
temporal life, he and my mother had been married for
56 years!! Yes, it was
a very rocky road at times and I remember my older brother
telling me they once thought about divorce, but for
our sake, their children, they preserved. (I'm the second
boy in a family of three boys, now 48, 52 and 56.)
Another blessing the Humphrey family
has received, compared to what I have heard in
similar family situations, is we have pretty much
been able to work out some very difficult issues in the
final days leading up to my father's death in a fairly
- Have we had our family fights? Sure,
we are human!
- Have we forgiven each other by saying
"I am sorry." and regrouped as a
Sure we are Christians!
Some may be envious of how relatively
smooth things have gone in our family. Personally, I'm
not surprised at all. Why? Because me and
my younger brother, Mark, were blessed with an appreciation
of the value of going to daily Mass, obviously in a state
of grace. Because we have been daily Mass goers,
many graces have fallen back in history to:
- keep my parents marriage together,
- get our family through the tough
times of dad's passing and
- have assisted in getting new housing for my mother
who was evicted
Remember because the Death of Our Blessed
Lord on Calvary IS ONE sacrifice that we enter into eternally
every time we go to Mass, the graces we receive from
each Mass, at God's will, can bless any part of our life
here on earth. Jesus is not a human person but a divine
person who died for our sins.
My opinion: A daily sacramental life
for a Catholic is a life full of blessings!
Despite my father's later years, overall
he was a very kind, giving, self-sacrificing father
obviously along with mom. He and mom always put our childhood
and well-being first. They wanted to make sure we had
it far better then they had during the depression. Being
a religious-oriented person, many times I could see the
image of God the Father in him; and as his Son, striving
to imitate Our Lord Jesus, knew I was bound to strive
to give back to him the life he, mom, and The Lord had
given me. Although I didn't see him as a Theology major,
when I told him: "He
was a good image of God the Father",
I thought he really understood what I was saying.
The only thing I really feel bad about
only thing I really feel bad about in the wake of his
passing away, was that he never achieved one of his major
goals in life: owning his own home. How do I know? Because
after his death, I was one of the first to go though
his top desk drawer, and I saw a "down payment"/check
on a house he had an opportunity to buy, 40 YEARS
AGO, uncashed! The check
was dated 1967. I have that check today and somehow I
hope to honor my father with it and pull a greater good
out of what was a bitter disappointment for him.
You may be asking though: What gave
you the momentum to go:
- all those hospital visits,
- all those nursing homes and
- to be with him when he or mom needed help?
My answer: Easy. God tells us in
the Old Testament that those who take care of
their parents in their elder years will receive many
blessings. My motive was two-fold:
- because it was the right thing to
do in God's eyes and
- I WANTED THE BLESSINGS! Yeah,
a selfish motive. :)
During those visitation periods though,
I received some interesting reflections.
Many times, dad would:
- drop something
on the floor by accident
- need help go to or from
- need help putting on a shirt or
- need help getting a straw in his
mouth so he could sip his orange juice
- had to be spoon fed because he could
not feed himself
- as well as other things.
One day I was visiting him, it dawned on me. Hey Michael,
when you were a baby did you:
- drop things on the floor by accident
- need help go to or from the bathroom
- need help putting on a shirt or
- need help getting a straw in my
mouth so I could sip my orange juice
- had to be spoon fed because I could
not feed myself
- as well as other things.
What I saw here was a small giving
back to my father for the many things he had given to
me in his life time when I was a baby. I found it amazing
how this patterned the Trinity in that God the Father
gave HIS ALL to His Only Son Jesus and in return Our
Blessed Lord gave HIS ALL back to His Heavenly Father.
I may have not been able to give MY ALL back to dad,
but I hope he now thinks I gave back something. :)
On further reflection on the Christian
Life and Promise of Our Lord of a New Birth into Everlasting
Life, I could see that his physical inabilities and weaknesses
were just a new-born prefigurement for his
birth into Everlasting Life.
One of the toughest periods during
the last few months
One of the toughest periods during
the last few months was when the doctors started asking
my mother permission for DNR (Do Not Resuscitate).
She was very honest, saying that she had one son who
was a religious freak. I took it as a compliment. Fortunately,
one of our part-time Catholic apologists, I
am trying to persuade him to go full-time; Richard
Chonak had a similar experience with his mother. I had
been dialoguing with Richard for several days on the
Catholic teaching on end-of-life issues. Our dialogue
was very helpful and timely. Due to
the length of the dialogue, and with Richard's permission,
we have posted
it in our knowledge base. This
was just before my mother came to me personally to talk
to me about the issue. I think
dialogue would be of great help to the
Faithful: Catholics AND non-Catholics who are striving
to do the right thing during a difficult period of in
A reflection among in-laws
I'd also like to make a note of
one other incident since my father's passing. My sister-in-law,
Pam was very surprised at the casualness
that both me and my younger brother Mark, Pam's
had to my fathers passing. She kept saying, "I'm
waiting for the other shoe to drop; I'm just waiting."
To this day, Mark and I keep telling
Pam, there is no other shoe that will drop. We know dad
is in a better place; if not in a suburb in Heaven, Purgatory,
where all his self-love and pride is being burned off;
then in Heaven with "The Big Guy." Simple!
What I drew from this is the value
of having a strong practicing Catholic faith. When one
has a stronger faith, they tend to have more of a confidence
and hope during tough emotional times because they know
that our physical life is NOT the end, but a TRUE Birthday
into eternal judgment and hopefully, if we have made
good choices, into Eternal Life with the Big
my humorous brother would say!
I wanted to end this commentary by
making some personal suggestions for those who have either:
through the death of a family member or
- are in the process
of going through the death of a loved one.
If you have gone through the death
of a family member:
- Reconcile any differences
among family members and in-laws. Sure, some family
members may have not been as compassionate as they
should have been to the faithful departed, but that's
none of your business. Your business is to act and
behave like a Christian and that starts with three
important words everyone should learn: "I
- Maybe you regret not having
done more for a deceased family member when he/she
was alive. Well, surprise, they are STILL alive.
They are more alive in the Church Triumphant, then
they were on earth. The main reason why, not only
Catholics, but Christians in general, refer to their
family members as dead, is because there is no better
expression, other then "faithfully
to refer to them in contrast to the life WE are
now living on earth.
We are alive, but they, our faithful departed loved
ones, are alive too!
In Heaven there are no grudges, no vices, no resentments,
just pure love and holiness. Because they are alive and
want to help us we should talk to them regularly in our
prayers. I talk to my father all the time and assign
specific tasks in my life for him to pray for based on
the best traits I saw in his life. I assign other basic
tasks to my guardian angel, Michael as well.
- Let's say you had a family member who you think died
with all the vices of the devil.
Remember: No one
can play God except God Himself. Many times in history
there have been death bed confessions from extremely
bad people. Make sure you offer up a set of regular
Masses for that person! If that person choose to die
refusing God's goodness, those Masses will be offered
up for someone who didn't! Nevertheless, we won't know
if they we effective until the general judgment.
In the Church we have "Month's Mind" Masses.
These are Masses that are offered for the repose of
person, about a month after the death or the funeral.
You can have it offered at any church, wherever you
like; it's like scheduling any other Mass intention.
If you are in the process of going
through the death of a family member:
- Pray regularly ...preferably the Holy Rosary. This
will cultivate improved virtues where you need them
and decrease the vices where they need to be decreased.
- Remember that the faith-spiritual
are on, is probably not the same as others
in your family. Your goal: Be kind,
open-minded and non-condescending. Strive to work
together with family members on the tough end-of-life
issues. Don't be demanding, but ask opinions of other
family members and only after asking their opinion,
pitch in your two cents, but in a non-threatening
manner. Strive to work out an agreement all family
members are happy in conscience with.
- Visit you failing family member
often. Trust that despite any selfish motive on your
part, God will keep his promise and bless you for
taking care of your elderly loved one.
there tends to be a family member who is more spiritual
than the others, if possible, let that person take
the lead to ensure that:
- the family member's
Church and pastor KNOWS
your family member is very sick.
nursing home/hospital staff know your family member
IS A CATHOLIC.
- your family member IS interested
in receiving Holy Communion at the nursing home
and/or hospital on a regular basis.
- on a secondary level,
he/she receives private confession at the hospital/nursing
home and most especially, the anointing of the
Side note: Strive to work with
whatever priest you have. Remember, despite the
earthen vessels of human frailty, the special
character on the priest's soul allow him to bring
down the graces of God from above!
- Finally, pray at the bedside of your family member
when he nears his/her passing. Our Blessed Lord has
promised great mercy on those who say the Divine Chaplet
of Mercy at the bedside of a loved one.
It is my hope and prayer that this
little commentary will assist others in similar situations.
feedback is always appreciated.
St. Stephen of North Sudbury, pray
Mike Humphrey, his son ... yeah, the
nutty one, No, that's Mark. I'm the religious freak :)