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Blessed are the Pure of Heart

by Alexa S.

I have never written an article before, but I have a testimony to share that ought to be shared. It is a testimony of faith and of love, but mostly, it is a testimony of Our Heavenly Father's infinite mercy and compassion.

My husband, George, suffered from multiple sclerosis for many years. He was diagnosed with the disease on January 25, 1982, one month after our second wedding anniversary. By August of 1982, he had lost his job because the disease had affected him to the point where he could no longer accomplish his work. He was legally blind. I was three months pregnant with our son when he lost his job.

The baby was born February 2, 1983. We named him George, III. By the time he started walking, my husband was using a walker to help him balance. By the time he started talking, George's logic and reasoning were noticeably impaired. As the baby started to eat more and more "adult" food, George started losing weight. In 1985 or so, he started to use an electric three-wheeled wheelchair to get around, because of his poor balance and fatigue. Our son was "potty-trained" by age two, at which time my husband had started becoming incontinent. In July of 1987, George entered the hospital for the first time with pneumonia. He had been in the hospital a number of times before that, but only for tests and popular steroid treatments for rapid, chronic, progressive multiple sclerosis.

By 1988, George was completely house-bound. That is, he could not get up out of his chair or bed without assistance. By 1989, he was bed-bound; sitting for virtually any length of time caused him to have recurrent bed-sores.

One night, in April of 1992, after putting young George to bed, I kissed my husband goodnight and noticed he was hiccupping. He had had hiccups before but these were consistent and prolonged. Still, I didn't think much about it except that I decided to raise the head of his hospital bed just a little before going to bed myself, thinking it might be more comfortable for him and help him with his hiccupping.

We had a small dog named Toby, at the time. Toby never barked in the house, but that night I was awakened at 5am by Toby's incessant barking. I got out of my bed and went to see what Toby was barking about. He was in George's room barking right beside the bed. George had vomited during the night and was virtually drowning in his vomit because he was unable to move his head. He was too weak to call out to me for help. I dialed 911 and George was rushed to the hospital. He had aspirated enough vomit to cause a severe case of pneumonia. Had I not raised the head of his bed and had Toby not awakened me, George most assuredly would have died that night.

We didn't think he would survive the pneumonia. His whole family came down from Pennsylvania. I spoke with my pastor, the organist, the funeral director, and with my in-laws. George surprised us all by pulling through. He came home and I bought a room monitor. He had a few bladder infections after that, but he did not require hospitalization for a whole year.

One morning in March of 1993, I left the house to go to morning Mass while the nurse's aide who came to bathe George every morning came. When I returned, George was lying non-responsive in his bed with a temperature of 106. I dialed 911 again. The paramedic took his temperature and got a reading of 108. George had developed another case of pneumonia. His left lung had collapsed around mass quantities of mucus. The outlook was dim, but...he pulled through. The doctor could only explain that this recovery was due to his young age (thirty-seven) and a good, strong, well-functioning heart. The only part of his body I knew would always be "good".

He came home the day before Easter Sunday and we had a quiet and happy Easter with him.

At some point between that time and May, I decided to go to the effort of bringing George to a Mass for Healing. Getting him there was quite a chore, as he was not only catheterized, he had a colostomy, a feeding tube in his stomach, and required the use of an oxygen tank since his release from the hospital. I had to take two tanks of oxygen with us and his special wheelchair. We also ran the risk of his skin breaking down and starting another bedsore. But we did it. It was a beautiful Mass and one of our very favorite and gifted priests anointed and laid hands on George.

I never really felt that it was God's will that George be healed. I knew George's illness was not only a cross for us, but an opportunity to grow in faith and love. It was an opportunity to participate in redemptive suffering; for our own personal sins and those of the whole world. Even George seemed innately to understand this. He once asked me if I thought he was suffering because of the wrongs he did in his life. I told him yes, but he was also suffering for my sins, for those he loved, as well as those he didn't even know. I told him the more we suffer here on earth, the less we suffer in purgatory. He never complained. He always prayed. Our son and I knew this, as there were many times young Georgie would ask me, after seeing his Daddy lying in his bed in the living room with his eyes closed, "Is Daddy asleep?" I'd say, "Yes, I think so." Then suddenly George would weakly answer, "No, I'm praying."

After the Healing Mass, which I felt I had a responsibility to take him to if I could, because it was wrong for me to be presumptuous about God's Will, I was moved to make a Novena to St. Rita of Cascia for George's healing, once and for all. She is the Patron Saint of the Impossible, for one, and my patron saint as well. We began the novena, as a family, on April 30th, 1993 and it ended on Saturday, May 8th.

That night of May 8th, before I went to bed, after giving George all his medicine, emptying his urine bag and colostomy bag, tending a bedsore, filling his food bag and kissing him goodnight, I felt his rather warm forehead. I took his temperature. It was 98.6. He seemed very weak and he was keeping his mouth open to breathe. His usual temperature was 96.8. I knew that 98.6 would not impress an emergency room physician. Had we gone to the ER at that point, we would have been sent home. I was sure his temperature was going to skyrocket before the night was over.

I lay awake all night checking his temperature, which eventually did get to be over 100. I had him in the emergency room by 4:30 am. He had a urine infection and septicemia as well as pneumonia. The doctor put him on three "big gun" antibiotics. It was Sunday, Mother's Day.

I stayed with George all day and finally went home, but stopped at church to go to 7 pm Mass before going all the way home. I was there an hour early and decided to pray the Rosary. I usually have many distractions while trying to meditate on the Mysteries of the Rosary, but I was not having any that night. It was consoling and wonderful prayer. While praying, I gazed at the crucifix hanging above the altar. It appeared to have a haze all around it. My thought was that I must be very, very tired because it appeared to me that Jesus' arms were moving. I also thought I could see Our Blessed Mother superimposed over Jesus. Her veil appeared to be made of roses. I was not particularly impressed with the miraculousness of my "vision." I assumed it was because I had not slept enough the night before and because I was under a great deal of stress. I was the only one in the church until an elderly couple came in. When they entered by the side door, my "vision" stopped. The couple proceeded down the middle isle. Out of the whole empty church, they picked the pew in front of me to enter quietly, kneel and pray. As soon as they did so, my "vision" returned. It was at that moment I could see in Jesus' face a nun in a black and white habit with her head bent. Her head was bent and she was looking at something in her hands, I could not identify who she was "supposed" to be. I finished the Rosary, and Mass began shortly thereafter. Our pastor is extremely talented with his words and gave a wonderful homily befitting Mother's Day. I don't remember the content, just that it gave me strength, joy, and consolation.

When Mass was over, I went to my car and opened the door. The inside light went on and I could see on the floor of my (messy) car, a prayer card on whose front was a picture of St. Rita of Cascia. It was the exact picture of the nun I had "seen" in Jesus' face, looking at a Crucifix in her hands. I remembered our novena. It was a premonition that all would be okay.

The following Saturday night, George's seventh night in the hospital, I awoke at 1:30 am and felt I needed to be at the hospital by 3 am. The week had proven that the night nurses at the hospital were not as attentive to George's needs as were the day nurses.

When at home, George routinely would awaken me anytime between 3 am and 3:30 am. It was always for something like scratching his nose or wiping his burning eyes with a cool washcloth. Sometimes, losing track of the time, he'd forget I was sleeping. After hearing him calling out, "Alex?" I'd climb out of bed sleepily, go to his bedside-rail and ask him what he needed. He'd make something up, like asking me what 8 times 9 was, or what time it was, or merely tell me he loved me. I knew he'd either forgotten what he wanted me for or he just wanted to know I was nearby.

Remembering this, I was by his side at the hospital by 3:30 Sunday morning, May 16th. It was the Feast of St. Simon Stock, the saint to whom Our Blessed Mother entrusted the scapular to. I saw that George was not wearing the scapular he usually had on, they had taken it off to bathe him. Not finding his close by, I took mine off and placed it over his shoulders.

At 7 am the nurses' shift was changing. About five nurses came in to do the rounds. They looked sadly at George and me. The head nurse ordered for George's vital signs to be taken. At 7:30 am an aide came in and took George's temperature. It was 100. I was on the phone with my sister, telling her that George looked particularly weak and I was not feeling optimistic. I looked at the monitor that registered his blood pressure and saw that it was 65/35. I quickly got off the phone and went to George's side. I scooped him up in my arms, cradling his head. I knew this was it. I'd never seen anyone die. I had never even seen a dead person, but I knew this was it. I began to weep and told him it was okay; that Georgie and I would be okay, to go where he would be happier, and that I loved him more than life itself. I said several Hail Mary's over and over and he opened his eyes very wide and, with his last bit of strength, said, "I love you." Then what little air his lungs had in them seeped slowly out of his mouth and he died in my arms.

He was healed. Thank you St. Rita of Cascia! I knew that George was pure of heart. Father Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, OP, says in his book, The Three Ages of the Interior Life:

"Blessed are the clean of heart, even though they may be naturally less endowed than may others, if they are clean of heart, they shall see God...A truly clean heart is like the limpid waters on a lake in which the azure of the sky is reflected, or like a spiritual mirror in which the image of God is reproduced...That the heart may be pure, a generous mortification is prescribed...Even here on earth, the Christian will, in a sense, see God in his neighbor...in holy scripture, in the life of the Church, in the circumstances of his own life, and even in trial, in which he will find the lessons on the ways of Providence as a practical application of the gospel. Under the inspiration of the gift of understanding, this is the true contemplation which prepares us for that by which, properly speaking, we shall see God face to face, His goodness, and His infinite beauty."

My sweet husband is seeing God face to face now, for he was pure of heart.

About twelve weeks after George died, I saw him while I was sleeping. He was sitting crossed-legged with a pair of blue shorts on. His eyes were clear, bright and blue. His hair was shiny and golden, like he'd been in the sun, and his smile was radiant. I said to him, "George, I thought you were in heaven!?" He smiled a smile that out-matched any I'd ever seen and said, "I am! I am!" And the what happened was a communication between us I find hard to describe. It felt short but filled with so much meaning that it seemed long. I'd have to call it a communication of our hearts. I don't know what was communicated, but I wondered later if it was the type of communication similar to the type which takes place when we experience union with God. George then said to me, "Carry out your written." I was perplexed, but at that time I heard "outside of us" the grandfather clock in my hallway chime fifteen minutes after some hour. I opened my eyes and turned on the light to see my alarm clock read 3:15am. I knew it was really George because of the timing! I am writing this article as an attempt to follow George's instructions.

Through God's infinite compassion and mercy, my husband was healed and brought to The Beatific Vision. Through His infinite compassion and mercy, I was prepared for his death, and through His infinite compassion and mercy, I have been given the gifts of renewed hope, renewed faith, and renewed love for this precious gift we call "Life".

Through the gift of my marriage to George, through his life and illness, I have learned what life is for. It is for the glory of God, it is for the redemption of our sins and those of the whole world, until the end of time, when God will take us all home to Him to live the True Life in Him, a Life we are called upon to prepare for, to the best of our ability, and by the guidance of our faith in God through the faith in our Catholic Church.

My story does not end here, of course, but I will end by explaining one more thing that occurred to me on the first year anniversary of George's death.

May 16, 1994. I was alone in my thoughts and memories, remembering that Our Blessed Mother indicated to St. Simon Stock that those who wear the brown scapular would enter heaven on the Saturday after their bodily death. I discovered that George would have entered heaven on May 22, 1993...the feast of our beloved Saint Rita of Cascia!

Amen.

(postscript...Alexa remarried a wonderfully devout Catholic, and Canadian man (whom she met on the internet in September of 1997 !) in April of 1998. They live with her son George (16) in Ontario where her new husband works as an engineer)

A Prayer

Be with me God,
be with me and light my way.
Show me your knowledge of me.
Bring me into the truth of my life,
which is You.

Enter in to my heart and take away this suffocating guilt
and pain
and aloneness
I feel
in the depths of a nothingness my sinful nature
has created within my soul.

Gather me up into your arms,
change my doubt into faith,
my disdain into love,
my impatience into hope.

Free me from the anxiety for tomorrow,
let me bask in the glory of your glowing and radiant
love for me.
Help me to see the goodness of life
and carry me out of the gloom which I cling to so
tenuously.

Hear my cries and touch my tears.
Show them to me
and let me taste their bitterness-
contrasting it with the sweetness of Your Mercy.

Lord
cling to me as my shadow
though at different times of the day
I see you not,
yet you are there
and I think nothing of you.

Bring me into the light
which casts the shadow
I am able to perceive
and bend to touch.

Let me know the love
I so ardently yearn for
and grieve for
and oh
so want
to feel.

by Alexa S.

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