This country has gone mad. The world has gone mad. But my dear father received the Last Rites and the Apostolic Pardon from a courageous traditional priest, and he died wearing his Scapular and Miraculous Medal. My father has escaped his “night in a bad inn,” as his Third Order Carmelite patroness Saint Teresa of Avila described this earthly life. He has received his heavenly reward.
We pray for him, but I am confident that he is praying for us. -Christopher Ferrara
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Joseph Ferrara, Requiescat in Pace
Many of the Remnant readers are aware that my dear father passed from this life recently after a brief but very unforgiving battle with illness, complicated by the Wuhan virus.
We saw during this very sad chapter in our lives just how much a family’s advocacy matters in caring for the elderly confined to nursing homes, and just how tragic some of the consequences of the recent “lockdown” measures put in place by local governments, hospitals and nursing homes have been.
Up until March of this year, my 96 year-old father was in sound health and – although living in a nearby nursing home for safety reasons after some very dangerous falls in our 2-story home – he was still strong and active enough to go with us to daily Mass and various outings, as well as visits to our family home for dinner and joyful convivium.
Seeing my father each day made it easy to keep on top of his health status – especially making sure he stayed well-hydrated in a busy nursing home where the staff is already fully occupied with the medical oversight of 330 residents, given that he was prone to dehydration and we always helped a great deal to prevent this during our daily visits.
However, on March 12, the nursing home was put on mandatory lockdown, and our daily advocacy and oversight for my father was put on “remote”, making it impossible to evaluate how his health was faring without the ability to visually assess his physical condition and provide the support we had always been able to give for something as simple as hydration.
Within a few weeks, my father’s condition suddenly declined, not only for want of physical assistance and dehydration, but also from lack of daily family contact – an elixir more medicinal and therapeutic than any prescription the pharmaceutical industry can produce.
And yet, we were denied visits with my father of any kind, even though these would have helped safeguard his health and continued well-being while the staff was already over-extended with the medical emergency.
Inevitably, my father – who had never once had the flu in his entire life, so sound was his constitution – began to suffer (unbeknownst to us until it was too late) from the advanced effects of dehydration and consequent renal failure, then tested positive for the Wuhan virus.
On April 17, we suddenly learned quite by accident that my father’s condition was considered “end-of-life” – a development that was absolutely shocking, given that he was in good health when we last saw him at the beginning of March.
This news was quite a blow, and we requested immediate permission to see my father, a “leniency” granted during the current lockdown for the families of patients who are near death.
My brother Chris drove up from Richmond to join me and upon arriving in my father’s room once this permission was granted, we found my dear father in the throes of a slow and painful death from dehydration. Unable to insert IV’s or a midline to provide the fluids he desperately needed, we called for an ambulance to have him hospitalized.
In the very brief window of opportunity which this tragic visit to my father afforded, we were able to contact the Pastor from our parish after obtaining permission from the nursing home for him to come.
Without a moment’s hesitation, our good, faithful, and courageous Priest arrived in the
COVID-19 Lockdown unit within 30 minutes, anointed my father with Last Rites and bestowed the Apostolic Pardon. My father was just barely conscious, but nodded to acknowledge Father’s presence, and even grasped his hand at one point during the prayers.
A short while later, my father was rushed to the hospital where he was admitted for severe dehydration and renal failure. Once there, he stabilized considerably; however, we were once again forbidden to see him because of the lockdown restrictions also in place at the hospital, and could only communicate with him by video Facetime, which the hospital nurses graciously arranged for us one time each day.
This at least made it possible for us to physically see and speak with my father a few times during his hospital stay. One particularly miraculous exchange where we found him fully alert and smiling, chatting with us and giving us a salute and thumbs up, led us to believe he had beaten the odds and would soon recover, only to see him lapse into unresponsiveness the following day.
Soon it became apparent that his body had suffered too much kidney damage to recover without creating more medical complications, although he seemed to have beaten the effects of the virus itself.
Confronted with an irreversible decline in his condition, we had to make the sad decision to move my dear father to hospice and do what we could to minimize his suffering while still allowing him to hear us and be aware of our loving presence, given that once he was in hospice, we would again be allowed to see him.
Thus, on April 30, between two different Feasts of Saint Joseph (my dear father's patron!) – those being the Paschaltide Carmelite Feast of Saint Joseph on the previous day, and the Feast of Saint Joseph the Worker on the following day, May 1st -- the medical team overseeing my father's care transferred my father to hospice care, with Saint Joseph "surrounding" him on both sides...!
The beautiful and near-miraculous video call visit we had had with my father just one week before, after weeks of his being non-responsive, was a pure gift from God, and it is the way we will always remember my father -- smiling and saluting us.
My brother Joseph flew in from out of state, and thus my brothers and I were permitted to visit and pray by my father's bedside each day once he was admitted to hospice. My father was very weak, yet when we asked if he wanted us to pray a Rosary while he listened, he was able to nod.
His nurses were devout Catholics, and one of those who helped us "gown up" before going into my father's room for the first time made a deliberate point of showing us as soon as we entered that my father was still wearing his brown scapular!! ... after all he'd been through...
Our visits with my father over his 4 days in hospice were beautiful and peaceful. He nodded in response to some things we said and asked, even though he was no longer able to speak.
And then we sadly learned that our beloved father and dear "Patriarch" had passed peacefully into eternity Sunday evening, May 3, at 8 PM, just as we were hoping to arrange another visit with him that evening.
We weren't able to be with him when he died at 8 PM, but we had just finished praying a rosary for him and it turns out that was the very moment he passed from this world.
The nurse told us she had just checked in on him to turn him and make sure he was comfortable and open his window, and he seemed very calm. She said when she returned less than 10 minutes later, he was gone.
In fact, at precisely the same moment she discovered him, I was actually on the phone with the unit right after we finished praying the Rosary for him to see if we could come back again that evening for a 2nd visit that day, because we felt the end was very near and didn't want to wait until the morning.
They allowed us to go to the hospital after notifying us of his death, so we were able to go and pray by his bedside for an hour and give him our loving farewell (and a kiss on his forehead!).
Providentially, we had already visited him that afternoon for an hour and a half despite the COVID lockdown. We had prayed two Rosaries and the Divine Mercy chaplet at his bedside, and sang some hymns for him before leaving, intending to come back at around 8 PM -- only to receive the call about his passing before we could do so.
That had been the one great mercy in all of this, that we had been able to visit and pray by my father's bedside for the 4 days he was in hospice, whereas previously we were prohibited from seeing him for 2 months.
We were blessed with a wonderful Father, truly worthy of the title "Patriarch" by which we fondly referred to him and happily reminded him that we considered him such.
We also want to share that our dear father – a Third Order Carmelite – was a truly worthy witness to the Carmelite vocation....
There were many, many times when we went to pick him up from the nursing home that the aides and residents would make comments to us about my father's character being exceptional.
Some of the aides told us "You father is not like the other men....he never uses bad language", "Your father is so good and wholesome, he is very pure...", "Your father never gives us a hard time; he always says thank you....", "Your father is a gentleman, a gentleman...!", "Nice man, such a good man....!" and other such things.
And a resident said to me on several occasions...."Your father makes the Sign of the Cross many times a day....he's praying...!"
It is true that my father was deeply moved in prayer. Many times as we prayed the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary together, I would announce the mystery and give a brief meditation on Our Lord's sufferings. My dear father would be so deeply moved that he would slowly shake his head in sorrow thinking of what Our Lord suffered and sometimes comment with deep compassion about it before we began the decade, saying for example, with deep emotion: "We have no idea what He suffered for us...."
Sometimes he would also comment with great devotion on Our Lady's sufferings: "Imagine you saw one of your brothers suffering on the Cross. How would you feel? That gives an idea of what Our Lady must have suffered....!"
And in one of the very last conversations I had with my father before the COVID lockdown, he had just overheard or seen something he felt was offensive to God and began shaking his head in disapproval. Not knowing exactly what it was about, I asked him what was wrong and he said with great emphasis "I would rather die than sin...."
His fatherhood made it easy for us to imagine the unconditional love, goodness and wisdom of our Heavenly Father.
While we have lost a wonderful father, my brothers and I have all simultaneously experienced a wave of joy filling our hearts in an inexplicable way. Whereas I had expected to be overwhelmed (not to mention crushed) by sorrow at our loss (indeed, the days before his passing occasioned many tears), instead we find we are receiving an unforeseen inflow of joy and happiness for him which we believe is our dear father's first gift to us upon his passing.
May he rest in peace and speedily enter the Beatific Vision...please ask God and the Blessed Virgin for this mercy.
Thank you all for all the prayers, intercession and kind accompaniment you have all offered us during this difficult time.
In Jesus and Mary, Our Lady of Mount Carmel,
The Ferrara Family