When Someone is Dying, Go

Parish Diary

Fr. Peter Daly

April 21, 2011

 

Fr. Peter Daly talks about the experience of friend dying during Holy Week.

 

            When someone is dying, drop what you are doing and go see them. I learned that lesson a decade ago when a priest friend was dying in Kansas City. The nun at the nursing home where Monsignor was living called and said he wanted to see me. I said that I would come the next month. He died the next week. I regretted it ever since.

            This Palm Sunday weekend, I got a call from Beatrice, the wife of my dear friend, Ed Noriega. She said Ed was dying. He wanted to talk to me. She put him on the phone. He was very weak.

            “Hi Father,” he whispered.

            “Hang in there Ed, I’ll get down there to Texas to see you right after Easter,” I said.

            Bea came back on the phone. “I don’t think he will last more than a few days,” she said. He had stopped eating. His lungs were taking on fluid.

            I talked to my doctor. He said, “It won’t be long.”

            The next day I was on a plane from Washington, DC to Brownsville, Texas.

It was a real experience of the passion during Holy Week.

            Ed has been a good friend. Sixteen years ago when I came to this parish in Maryland, he volunteered to do our maintenance. We ate lunch together most days.

He helped me put together a funeral team. We did well over 150 funerals together.

He was at every Men’s Club meeting and Knights of Columbus event.

            When the Latino community started to grow in our area, he helped us with the Spanish language liturgy. He translated for the migrant workers. He corrected my Spanish.  We made a trip together to Mexico to establish our sister parish relationship in Hidalgo.

            Ed is a good man. Not a perfect man, but a good man.

            Like any pastor, I know the light and the shadow.

            But I also know that he is as much a member of my family as any blood relative.

            We were very different.  He was 20 years older, a son of South Texas, from a border town. His mother spoke only Spanish. He was a military man. For him the Air Force was his ticket out.

            I was from Chicago, an ethnic urbanite. My family is Irish and German, city people from the frozen north. For me the Church was my ticket out.

            Despite our differences, we shared the faith.

            We became pals. We traveled together to Israel, Italy, Turkey and Greece. We made day trips to Philadelphia on parish business. We went down to the beach on days off.

            Two years ago, Ed moved home to Texas. Nobody said so at the time, but we knew he was going there to die. We talked on the phone, but Ed never liked talking about his health. Instead we talked about happy memories. We laughed a lot.

            Another parishioner, George Sullivan, joined me in Texas on this last trip. George and Ed have worked together on many projects. They also shared a love of cigars, fine scotch, and an appreciation of the feminine form.

            As we were leaving Ed’s house to fly back home I said, “Adios amigo, good bye old friend. I will see you in heaven. Hold the door open for me. I’m right behind you.” Ed cried.

            George leaned over and said, “We have to work our some kind of signal, so you can tell me whether or not the women wear any clothes in heaven.”   Ed laughed.

            The tears and the laughter were the best medicine for the three of us.

            If somebody calls and says a friend is dying, go.