Jeanne Smits, Paris correspondent

My mother’s dignified, holy death

Jeanne Smits, Paris correspondent
By Jeanne Smits
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Dear friends,

My mother died on Sunday, 28th of October. She was 90, and had been completely dependent for 18 months. By progressive standards, her life was completely useless. During that year and a half, she was only vaguely conscious of her surroundings, lying in a hospital bed, incapable of any autonomous action whatsoever. She could hardly see or hear us. She could not eat or drink alone. Everything had to be done for her. But in those blessed 18 months, she taught us the extraordinary value and dignity of human life, and her death was such an example to us I would like to share it with you.

My mother had been ill for quite some time with a form of Parkinson’s disease, but while we felt she was slowly going backwards, she still had the greater part of her faculties and was at home with my father, who looked after her lovingly. Suddenly, last year in spring, she passed out for an hour and woke up delirious, in a state of great agitation. Luckily I was spending a short vacation at my parent’s house, and when the ambulance came I was able to accompany her to the regional hospital.

We were all afraid her last hour had come and while she was being taken care of in the emergency department I pleaded with John Paul II. “You know what it is to have Parkinson’s,” I said. “Please help my mother!”

At that exact moment my husband’s cell phone rang. It was a friend, a priest who was organizing a day of conferences and remembrance in Paris on the occasion of John Paul II’s beatification. Would I give a one-hour talk on John Paul II and natural law?

“OK, John Paul II,” I thought. “I’ll do something for you, and you’ll do something for my mother.” I accepted. From that point onwards my mother’s condition worsened, swiftly and inexorably.

But it was a blessing in disguise.

The infection that had been responsible for her delirium was treated, but only after 18 hours: much too late. Her brain had been harmed. After two weeks my mother was discharged from hospital and returned home, but she was by then already incapable of getting up from her bed, she was more and more agitated and my father, who was then 92, could not possibly cope. Providentially, we were offered a room for heavily dependent persons at the local hospital, only a few kilometers away. Ordinarily obtaining such a room takes up to six months or more. This time apparently the room was waiting for its patient. It was heartbreaking to take her there. But what could we do?

My mother, from that time onward, was no longer agitated, depressed or unhappy. She was living in a world of her own, although she would answer our questions appositely in her normal, firm and clear voice, often wittily, and always welcomed us with a radiant smile when she realized we were near her. The last really conscious and complete sentence I heard her say was the day after she had entered what was to be her last home, and I was saying goodbye before leaving for Paris, my family, and my job.

“I want to go to where the Pope is,” she said.

“Which Pope: John Paul II or Benedict XVIth?” I asked.

The answer came immediately, clear and completely incongruous, coming from her:

“Wojtyla,” she said.

One of my sisters had another experience. On the first day in that hospital, she heard my mother saying loudly and clearly the prayer taught by the angel to the three children of Fatima – Our Lady of Fatima having always been her great devotion: “I offer all my sufferings to the Sacred Heart of Jesus through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, for the conversion of sinners.”

My mother lost her own mother when she was 11 years old, way back in 1933, and it was a shock so great she had no memories preceding that date. She had asked the Virgin Mary to be her mother, and had always prayed devoutly, hoping for the good and peaceful death Our Lady promises those who serve her. But she had been, in her last years at home, very anguished by the perspective of death.

For the eighteen months following her admission to the center for dependent elderly persons, we, her five children, had our mother close to us, strangely and unexplainably close. She was living in another time, another dimension almost, where the value of material things has disappeared, where only the person counts: the person with his or her capacity for love and relationships. She was mysteriously and completely herself, loving us, showing her profound pleasure when we were near, needing no riches other than our words of affection. My father – 93! – would take out his car almost every single evening to visit her in hospital and to give her supper, spoonful after spoonful. For this she would often thank him, as she would also thank the hospital workers when they came to help her, feed her, change her, care for her, with a slight pressure of the hand.

During those long months, my “Mammie” was indeed wonderfully cared for by the nurses and hospital workers who all showed the same consideration and respect for this life, “useless” as it was and slowly nearing its end. They would often come and make up her bed, change her sheets if necessary, and brush her hair just before they knew my father was due. They did all they possibly could to make her comfortable, massaging her to avoid bed sores – she had not a single one in those 18 months, after being healed of the wounded heel she had brought back from her two-weeks stay in the previous hospital – and arranging for my father to bring in an air-humidifier to make her breathing easier.

On October 13th, I got bad news from home. My mother had been found in a critical state in the morning: she had probably had a heart attack during the night and she was suffering from pulmonary edema. She was given oxygen and appropriate medication to help her get over the condition, but once again we thought it was the end. I was due to speak at a prayerful meeting for persecuted Christians that same evening, but I waited to hear that her condition was a bit better to decide to stay in Paris.

That same evening “Mammie” was apparently asleep, but when she received the Last Sacrament on this 95th anniversary of the last apparition in Fatima, something extraordinary happened. One of my sisters said loudly into her ear the prayer she loved: “I offer all my sufferings to the Sacred Heart of Jesus through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, for the conversion of sinners.” My mother smiled, opened her mouth widely, and said: “Aaaah!” as if in profound approval. This was to happen a few more times during the days that followed, although she was almost continuously sleeping.

From that moment on my mother ate very little: at the end, a few spoonfuls of yoghourt in the morning at most. She was constantly given water and glucose intravenously so that she would not suffer from dehydration. She was given oxygen, but no violent treatments so that she would not suffer unnecessarily; we also decided not to have her transferred to another hospital as transporting her would have probably made her even more ill.

Just before the beginning of the two weeks school vacation for All Saints, my father called me to say he thought my mother would die soon: a matter of days or weeks at the most. We hurriedly prepared to travel to Brittany with our two younger children, the eldest being away on an end of high school retreat with his class.

It was a sorrowful trip on that Saturday, October 27th, and when we called my father to say we were nearing his home he said he would drive out to the hospital to meet us there so that we could see “Mammie” straight away together with him. It was 11 p.m.: the night nurse quickly answered our call and came to open the hospital doors for us, warning that my mother was “very tired”. She was lying peacefully, receiving oxygen through tubes in her nose and sleeping easily. We all kissed her and told her how much we loved her. The nurse told us we could call at any time during the night and promised to warn us if my mother’s condition worsened, but there appeared to be no immediate cause for concern.

Next day was Sunday. We went to Mass together and stopped at the hospital at midday on the way back. My mother was the same, so we all returned home to have lunch.

Less than three hours later, the dreaded call came. The nurse on duty found my mother’s breathing very irregular, with long pauses. Would we come? Quickly we prepared for the five-mile drive to the hospital; my father, my husband and our two younger children, 13 and 10, hurried off. Tactfully and respectfully, the nurse accompanied us into the room. My mother was breathing so shallowly it was almost imperceptible; the nurse could hear that my mother was still alive as she perceived her respiration and blood flow through her stethoscope.

A hospital worker came in and told us to hold my mother’s hands, assuring us that even if she seemed asleep, she could feel us and would be helped and comforted by our presence.

Together, we said the prayers for those who are agonizing – but such a peaceful agony so as not to deserve its name! – the litany of the Divine Mercy, and the psalm “Nunc Dimittis” : Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace…

Two of my elder sisters had soon been able to join us. Together we started to say the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary. The nurse came in regularly: each time, she would still hear my mother’s almost imperceptible breathing: no, she was not dead.

Our two young children cried quietly: no, they would not leave the room, they wanted to be with their grandmother till the end.

At the end of the fifth Joyful Mystery, it must have been 5:20 p.m., my father and one of my sisters felt my mother’s fingers slowly growing cold. That was the only certain sign we had of life’s departure: “Mammie’s” life had slowly, gently, peacefully ebbed away, no one could have said exactly when. Her last moments, in the prayerful presence of most of her family, were fully respected, she died in her own time, at her own pace, having fully accepted all that was to come about in a spirit of reparation, without fear and oh, so softly.

In the traditional liturgy my family loves, it was the feast of Christ the King, another favorite devotion of my mother’s.

Her death appeared as a sad mystery, a bereavement, but it was a natural and familiar parting, not a tragic destruction. For all of us, and especially for our children, it was a lesson in savoir-vivre as the French would say: knowing how to die is the better part of knowing how to live…

There was no indignity in her diminished state, her end of life was definitely worth living, and consoled those who loved her. Her life was offered up, not violently taken by a murderous doctor committing what they dare to call “euthanasia”, or “easy death.”

My father asked to have my mother brought home, so that we could “wake” her as used to be the custom in former, more humane times. We all prepared the room where she would lie next morning, borrowing candles from the parish church. The undertakers came that same Sunday evening and kindly, sensitively helped us to prepare for the arrival of my mother’s mortal remains. Did we have Holy Water, some appropriate vessel to place before the bed, a branch of blessed palm so that our visitors could bless the body? Yes, that’s in poor, secularized France…

The next two days were strange and awful, but also very consoling. Many friends and neighbors came in to pray at my mother’s bedside and we had the feeling we were getting that bit of extra time we needed for her death to sink in. And life went on: between the hassle, worry and paperwork, keeping everyone fed, organizing family lunches and dinners that have such a special capacity to make family bonds palpable, arranging for the funeral and the reception which would take place at home afterwards, we would go softly into my mother’s room and pray. The children came into the room now and then, between a bout of tennis in the garden or a subdued game in the living room. No one even thought of asking to watch a film. The situation was completely natural because we had let the supernatural occupy the space it deserves.

The hardest time came when, on Tuesday evening, they came with the mayor of our village to close and seal the coffin. Many pent up emotions came loose, and we were able to feel the importance of saying a definitive “good-bye”, a last word of gratitude, an “à Dieu”. It was much harder than the burial itself – which took place after a splendid and consoling funeral Mass where death is portrayed as it is: a terrible thing, but also a promise of eternal happiness for those who implore God’s Mercy.

Please pray for my mother, that she may truly rest in peace.

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David Bereit of 40 Days for Life, on the right.
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All one fight: Why the leader of 40 Days for Life says he may become active in the fight for marriage

Dustin Siggins Dustin Siggins Follow Dustin
By Dustin Siggins

WASHINGTON, D.C., April 27, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Just eight years ago, 40 Days for Life was founded as a pro-life Christian ministry. This year, it reached 252 cities in 19 countries.

Now, says founder and National Director David Bereit, he's discerning whether to expand his personal activism to marriage.

"The various moral issues we confront in our culture today are all intrinsically connected," Bereit told LifeSiteNews at Saturday's March for Marriage. “When you look at the various factors that lead to the breakdown of nations and civilizations, they are moral factors," Bereit said. "It's the devaluing of human life, it's the abandonment of religious belief and practice, it's immorality -- the increase thereof – and it's the breakdown of the family."

"They're all tied into this moving away from God, and America was founded as a nation with Christian principles and ideals that used to say 'In God We Trust.' And the further we've turned away from that, the more we have fallen,” he said. "I believe that with man, turning the tide in our culture is not possible, but with God, all things are possible."

Bereit stressed that his attendance at the March for Marriage, as well as his ongoing process of discernment, was representative only of his own circumstances -- not those of 40 Days for Life, which remains an abortion-focused ministry.

Bereit did not shy away from questions that are often raised about what President Barack Obama called America's “tragic” history.

"America was built on Judeo-Christians principles,“ he said. “There are still fallen people that make up our churches and our communities."

"The question is, will people of faith and conscience turn back to God and do their very best to align themselves with the principles that formed our nation and made our nation such a great place in history?"

Click "like" if you want to defend true marriage.

The third annual March for Marriage, which was organized by the National Organization for Marriage and exclusively livestreamed by LifeSiteNews, drew thousands of people, mostly minorities, just three days before what is being billed as the definitive U.S. Supreme Court hearing on the issue of same-sex "marriage."  

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‘Persecution plain and simple’:  Franklin Graham fundraises for Oregon bakers after GoFundMe shuts them down

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By Ben Johnson

BOONE, NC, April 27, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – First, they were fined $135,000 for refusing to bake a wedding cake for a homosexual “marriage” ceremony. Then, a rival business owner convinced GoFundMe.com to stop Christian bakers Aaron and Melissa Klein from raising money to pay the fine on the grounds that, since their religious beliefs violate state law, they are common criminals.

Now, one of the nation's most well-known Christian ministers and philanthropists is coming to their aid.

An administrative law judge fined the Oregon bakers, proprietors of Sweet Cakes by Melissa, $135,000 to pay for the emotional suffering of Rachel and Laurel Bowman-Cryer – a lesbian couple who say they feel the Kleins “mentally raped” them.

The Kleins have since closed their Portland-area business and lost substantial income. After hearing of the fine on Friday, Melissa said the amount would financially crush them.

The family opened a GoFundMe page and, within hours, they collected more than $109,000.

Then Lisa Watson, the co-owner of Cupcake Jones in Portland, began lobbying the website to banish the couple's appeal.

“The amount of money they have raised in a matter of a few hours by thousands of anonymous cowards is disgusting,” Watson wrote on Facebook. She added that the website's “terms of service address hate speech, bigotry, criminal activity, and sexism among other things in their campaign.”

GoFundMe then suspended the Kleins' fundraising.

“While a different campaign was recently permitted for a pizzeria in Indiana, no laws were violated and the campaign remained live,” GoFundMe said in a statement. “However, the subjects of the 'Support Sweet Cakes By Melissa' campaign have been formally charged by local authorities and found to be in violation of Oregon state law concerning discriminatory acts. Accordingly, the campaign has been disabled.”

The day after the announcement Watson, who operates her business with husband Peter Shanky, posted a photo of her 2015 Equality Advocate Award “for outstanding leadership to advanced lived equality for all LGBTQ Oregonians.”

The Kleins hope the website will reconsider. “We have told GoFundMe that the money is simply going to be used to help our family, and there is no legitimate breach of their terms and conditions,” the Kleins wrote on Facebook.

That's when the Reverend Franklin Graham and his ministry Samaritan's Purse stepped in, allowing those who wish to alleviate the couple's suffering to donate on its website.

"The fund was created to help persecuted Christians in the U.S., including Aaron and Melissa Klein,” an employee at Samaritan's Purse told LifeSiteNews today. “It was only activated over the weekend and the organization has not yet announced any numbers. Currently, Samaritan's Purse is focused on the earthquake in Nepal and providing relief supplies to people impacted by the disaster.”

Graham praised the Kleins' steadfastness in the face of legal challenges. “They have taken a stand for the Word of God, and they should not have to stand alone,” the ministry's founder and president Franklin Graham said. “I believe that Christians across our nation will rally around Aaron and Melissa and their five children. Please pray for Aaron and Melissa, and pray for our nation. When our judges are punishing Christians for practicing what they believe, that’s persecution, plain and simple.”

“God bless Reverend Franklin Graham,” AFR Talk radio host Bryan Fischer said today. 

Click "like" if you want to defend true marriage.

The Kleins will still receive the money raised by GoFundMe, in addition to any supplemental funds raised by Graham's international charitable ministry.

Conservative author Dan Calabrese wrote that “Melissa's Sweet Cakes will not have to go into bankruptcy and the family won't personally be ruined. And what a disappointment that must be to the gay mafia, whose agenda is to intimidate all gay marriage opponents into not just silence but compliance, for fear of just such” an outcome.

Christians have risen to the challenge before. Memories Pizza raised more than $840,000 after the Indiana pizzeria was harassed into closing its doors for saying it would cater a same-sex “wedding.”

Calabrese warns that these victories may lead to more intense anti-Christian persecution.

“When put in an untenable position like this, Christians and others who support their right to operate their business as they see fit will come to their aid. So the gay mafia will take it up a notch, attempting to intimidate the fundraising organizations from cooperating with the effort,” he said.

If that fails, “Maybe they can persuade friendly Democrat lawmakers (or terrified Republicans) to legislate them out of business.”

Readers can donate to the Klein family here.

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Opposition to same-sex ‘marriage’ – a deeper love

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By John-Henry Westen

April 27, 2015 (CNSNews.com) -- Same-sex “marriage” – the legal recognition of same-sex relationships – is one of the most contentious issues in America. Laws, constitutional interpretation, and the future of religious liberty may well rest on what nine justices decide two months from now.

Many observers seem to believe that the Supreme Court will rule in favor of redefining marriage. And while many on all sides of the debate, especially those who are undecided, believe this will bring cultural peace, evidence around the world points in the exact opposite direction.

Rather than settle animosity and ease cultural tensions, the advent of same-sex “marriage” will lead to the repression of religious freedom and determination to root out dissent to the gay rights doctrine. At LifeSiteNews, we have watched this play out for nearly two decades in 17 countries around the world – and America is next.

A prime example is Canada. Same-sex “marriage” passed in 2005. Similar to European countries which have done so, there has been a relentless pursuit of the minds of children against the wishes of their parents. Schools, both public and private, were first mandated by law to have gay-straight alliance clubs under the auspices of anti-bullying. Then, sex-education, teaching the normalcy of homosexual sex, was given to children without parents being permitted to opt their children out of the classes.

We have arrived at this state of affairs because of the silence of Christian pulpits on sexual matters, and the concomitant shouting from every secular pulpit, screen and book. Even the current discussion around same-sex “marriage” in the United States reveals a grave reluctance to speak about the heart of the issue – homosexual sex. Rather, arguments are made about the goodness of natural marriage, about its benefit to children, and its unchangeable character.

From reporting on the subject every day for so many years, we knew that the struggle for same-sex “marriage” has very little to do with marriage. In fact, until just recently, gay activists didn’t even want to be “married” to each other. Most had no interest in the constraints that such a formalized union would entail in terms of exclusive partnership.

However, the leaders among the activists convinced the movement that they must attain marriage as a societal stamp of approval to homosexual behavior. And, frankly, they have largely succeeded.

Today, in many of the nations where same-sex “marriage” is law, opposition to it is seen as akin to racism. It is seen falsely as an animosity against someone for who they are—an unwillingness to recognize the human dignity of a class of persons due to an immutable characteristic.

However, that false perception is due to a purposeful agenda to conflate animosity against homosexual sex acts with animosity against persons who experience same-sex attraction. The ancient Christian teaching to “love the sinner and hate the sin” is an impermissible distinction in the minds of some. It is, however, the key to understanding the majority of the opposition to same-sex “marriage.”

The plain truth of the matter is that opposition to same-sex “marriage” is rooted not in hatred and bigotry, but just the opposite – in love. Like parents who do not allow children to behave dangerously without lovingly correcting them, opponents of same-sex relationships are hoping to save people with same-sex attractions from severe physical, psychological, and spiritual harm.

Just as, out of love and concern for their children’s welfare, parents must correct and discipline, despite the protests they may get in return, any true believer in marriage, natural law and science must lovingly correct their fellow man.

In other nations, the perception that opposition to same-sex “marriage” is based upon bigotry has led to laws that violate religious liberty, parental rights and freedom of speech. This is why those who oppose same-sex “marriage” must present their reasoning as based on love and concern for the welfare of those in homosexual relationships, in addition to concerns for children and society itself. And there is ample evidence on which to base that concern in the numerous studies showing the grave harm of homosexual sex to both body and psyche.

When I’ve spoken of these findings at conferences around the world, some have questioned if the researchers who showed these harms weren’t themselves biased by anti-gay sentiment. And so I’ve taken to carrying with me on my phone the quotes of the late Canadian gay activist Gens Hellquist, whose testimony proves the harms of gay sex better than any study ever could.

Speaking a year after the passage of same-sex “marriage” into law, Hellquist was seeking more healthcare dollars for the LGBT community. "We have one of the poorest health statuses in this country,” he said. “Health issues affecting queer Canadians include lower life expectancy than the average Canadian, suicide, higher rates of substance abuse, depression, inadequate access to care and HIV/AIDS."

"There are all kinds of health issues that are endemic to our community,” he added. “We have higher rates of anal cancer in the gay male community, lesbians have higher rates of breast cancer.”

He concluded: “Now that we can get married everyone assumes that we don't have any issues any more. A lot of the deaths that occur in our community are hidden, we don't see them. Those of us who are working on the front lines see them and I'm tired of watching my community die."

Click "like" if you want to defend true marriage.

Pastors and preachers must take up this call to speak the truth in love, for without this approach, the public will be led to believe that those opposed to same-sex “marriage” are indeed haters needing to be stopped with the force of law. Love is the most powerful force in any argument, and gay “marriage” pushers have used it very effectively. As Hilary Clinton tweeted as she fought religious freedom laws in Indiana: “We shouldn't discriminate against ppl bc of who they love #LGBT”

The truth is that those who oppose same-sex “marriage” are showing a deeper love, as any parent does when instilling difficult discipline. We have enough love and concern for those with same-sex attraction to warn them not to engage in behaviors proven to be very harmful. We won’t encourage people to enter into such harmful behaviors by redefining marriage to encourage it, nor will we allow our children to be indoctrinated into regarding it as a healthy and safe alternative lifestyle.

We have failed so far to get this message of love out to the public. I will not be surprised if the Supreme Court approves of same-sex “marriage” – and I will be even less surprised to see a subsequent  crackdown on religious freedom, as already seen in states like California and Colorado.

Pope Benedict XVI predicted it a decade ago. Observing the international trends, the then-Cardinal said “very soon it will not be possible to state that homosexuality, as the Catholic Church teaches, is an objective disorder in the structuring of human existence.”

Reprinted with permission from CNS News

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