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All his life, he based his Catholic action almost entirely on the encyclicals and social teachings of the great popes of his day. But in his death, we witnessed what I truly believe was the unmistakable endorsement of the lonely stand in defense of the Church that my father took so many years ago. So, here is my simple report on the last two weeks in the life of Walter Matt. Two weeks before he died, he fell over backwards from his wheelchair in his living room. I got the call from my mother to come quickly, and I found him lying on the floor with a pillow under his head.
He was patiently looking out his window as he waited for help to come. I picked him up and set him back in his chair. He was happy, and in good spirits. The next day, just after enjoying a nice lunch with my mother, he quite suddenly and without much fuss had a massive stroke. The ambulance came and, for whatever reason still no one knows why , they took him to St.
This was not his hospital. At first we tried everything we could think of to get him transferred out of St. But, incredibly, all our efforts were in vain.
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Inside those halls, which are adorned with crucifixes and life-size statues of St. Joseph, one can almost pretend that Vatican II never happened. This was the place my father went to die. My father was declining rapidly. He could communicate still, but not through speech, and he was paralyzed on the right side of his body. After a day or so, he showed no signs of coming out of the stroke-induced paralysis.
The unpleasant debate over feeding tubes, I. But my father was dying—he knew it long before the rest of us could face it. He knew it and my mother knew it, but she still did everything possible—including approving the insertion of a feeding tube—to give him every chance.
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After a week, the doctor recommended that my father leave St. He was transferred out of the hospital, but as soon as he arrived at that nursing home, he had a near fatal incident. He was rushed back to St. The vigils began then in earnest. His nine children worked in shifts, staying through the night with my mother, his constant deathbed companion.
He was never alone. The traditional priest who was called is an old and dear friend who my father knew well from the days before he was ordained, when he used to help run the printing presses at the old Remnant office back in the s.
This priest Father David Belland was like a loyal son to my father, and he came often to the deathbed. He administered Extreme Unction to him and gave him absolution several times before he died.
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The days lagged on, each one bringing more signs that death was drawing nearer. By the end, he was only able to smile with his eyes and squeeze our hands in response to questions. His faithful priest came again and gave him absolution once more. Directly outside his window, perhaps a hundred feet removed, the twin spires of the Church of the Assumption were in plain view. Like a special gift from God, the beautiful stone church remained constantly in his line of vision as he prepared to leave the world. Inside that church, there remains the high altar, parts of the Communion rail, the old confessionals, all of the old statutes that had been there years ago when my father was young.
The church remains unchanged because it is a historical site, protected by the Historical Society. It was as if the church was announcing the passing of a faithful son. He was dying literally in the shadow of the church he knew so well.
With nine children coming and going at all hours of the day and night, there were many, many rosaries prayed during this time. At the foot of his bed, a statue of Our Lady had been carefully set up. A rosary hung from his bed apparatus above his head throughout the ordeal. If appearances mean anything, and in this case they certainly do, the room was set for a Catholic ritual…the ritual was death. Everything about the room suggested the same thing: a Catholic was arming himself for the final conflict.
The wait continued until time itself became sort of meaningless and blurred. Always the teaching father, he waited patiently for every little rift and misunderstanding that had existed between his nine children to be totally obliterated. He held on until everyone who knew and loved him was at total peace with everyone else because of him. Grace became almost palpable during that deathwatch. Things were happening. Forgiveness and hope and respect and honor and love and grief and prayer and tears and death combined to create a holy atmosphere that defies description.
The night before he died, his nine children and their spouses, and even some of his grandchildren and great-grandchildren, gathered around him. They talked and shared stories with him; they prayed and read litanies and prayers for the dying.
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Panis Angelicus, Ecce Panis Angelorum, Adoramus te Christe…the strains of the old Catholic hymns filled his room and the hallway beyond with a sweet Catholic calm that evoked tears even in the eyes of his nurses. Quietly, the old man waited on death, while his grief-stricken children sang him to sleep.
By the following evening, a seasoned hospice nurse and a Catholic told my mother that it was time. The moment had come to say goodbye. And so we did. Leave a Comment Cancel reply Enter your comment here Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:. Email required Address never made public.
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