On Sunday around 11:30 a.m., Fr. Joseph awoke from his morning slumber. Whenever he awoke, he would need an arm and a hand to assist him from the prone position to the sitting position. Once he was seated, I ran to the small refrigerator in the kitchen in his room to round up the usual menu choices: lemon-lime Gatorade, white Vitamin-D organic whole milk, organic chocolate milk, and A&W root beer.
Because it was difficult for Fr. Joe to raise his head and eyes, I would sit on the ground so that I could look up into his eyes that spoke volumes especially when he couldn’t. The menu choices were placed beside me so that he could non-verbally indicate what his selection would be this morning. He usually chose Gatorade, so I held that up. After receiving no indication of interest, I asked him if he was getting tired of Gatorade, and he shook his head, “Yes.” When I held up the chocolate milk, he indicated that was what he would have for his lunch.
Whenever Fr. Joe drank, he used a straw in order to suck up the fluid because he no longer had a lower lip to help keep the fluid in his mouth. He now needed more assistance in helping him to hold the bottle and straw to his lips. This time, however, he pulled the straw out. I thought to myself that maybe he was not having a lucid moment, so I said, “Joe, I think you need the straw,” and I put it back into his drink. He proceeded to pull the straw back out and then struggled to lift the bottle to the side of his lips to drink from the corner of his mouth.
It then dawned on me that he was so, so thirsty and no longer had the energy to suck the fluid up into his mouth, so his engineer mind was trying to figure out how he would quench his thirst. I held the bottle, and Fr. Kevin placed a mat on his lap to catch any overflow or spillage. As I held the bottles and caressed his hands, I also held two washcloths around the bottle to catch what I thought would be the typcial drips, only this time, the drips became a deluge. What liquid he tried to put in his mouth came pouring out on the other corner of his mouth until we had a puddle on the mat and had to get a thick towel to catch the rest.
Again, my mind went to Christ on the cross.
“After this, Jesus, knowing that all things had already been accomplished, to fulfill the Scripture, said, "I am thirsty." (John 19:28) And yet, His thirst, which had to be a physical one after all His body had endured, was more a spiritual one - a thirst for souls. Fr. Joe could not and did not quench his physical thirst at what would be his last meal on earth. But I think he knew all things had been accomplished. It was time to complete his mission.
Fr. Joe’s body started to shake slightly, and I worried that he was cold. Fr. Kevin said it was his overall physical fatigue. The body could not do it anymore. So we helped him lie back down. As we placed a clean blanket over his body in such a way as not to drag it over his wounds, I noticed his eyes - his big, baby-blue eyes. They looked intently at the blanket as if it were a shroud descending upon him, and again I thought, “I wonder what this must look like from his position. A big blanket descending upon you to cover you up and not being able to control if the blanket hits a wound in the wrong spot - submitting to whatever happens.”
Fr. Joe liked to lie on his side and at times - although seldom - on his back with a small pillow to hold up his wounded head. He chose to lie on his back, so I tucked a pillow under his left shoulder to give him a bit of a rise on his side to avoid causing more pain to the wounds on his back.
Fr. Joe fell asleep at 1:00 p.m. and never woke up again.
By big sister