Because Macular Degeneration has taken away his vision, he can no longer see clearly. This means he cannot do the one thing he loves most, to read. The stories on Channel 229, plus the masses and rosaries spoken out loud, bring him a source of comfort that has never abandoned him— his Catholic religion.
“I think it’s time for mass,” he calls out to me every evening at 6:30, settling in for another journey with our Lord.
I press the numbers 229 on the TV remote, and the church bells ring loud and clear. The priest slowly makes his way through a throng of devoted parishioners to the gilded altar and the sacrament begins.
“There you go, Dad,” I say as I kiss his forehead. “I’ll be back when it’s over.”
Standing at the door, I watch his eyes close and lips silently follow along in prayer. He centers himself into a blissful peace I fear I will never know.
All my life, I have witnessed this man of God live a pure, holy life. Born into the rich tradition of Christ’s teachings, my dad has always lived according to the Holy scripture’s plan. He followed God’s laws. He lived a life of simplicity and humility. He always knew what was right, and what was wrong.
After a few of those nightly masses, one day, I had to ask the burning question I’d thought about since I was a little girl. Forever a woman with the middle name “why” I needed to uncover his secret.
“Dad, do you ever question the teachings of the church?” I asked, tucking him into bed. “You seem to be so secure in what your belief.”
Looking at me, his daughter who finds herself always at a loss as an adult with her religious upbringing, he took my hand and said, “Honey, I question so much.”
For a moment, I stood in shock. He always appeared to be the dutiful boy who did exactly what he was told, unquestioning. My father is a creature of routine and stability. It’s how he functions best, and I assumed he blindly believed because it suited his lifestyle. For some, it’s just easier to be told how to live our lives than to explore the possibilities
“Really?” I said. “I’m surprised. What do you question?”
“I question issues that feel more political than religious, but when it comes to the teachings of Christ, I have no doubts. This is where you need to have faith.” Clutching his rosary to his chest, getting ready for his final nightly prayers, he continued, “Whenever you’re in doubt about your life, close your eyes and say ‘Jesus, please comfort me.’ It works every time.”
Looking at this shriveled, shell of a human being who was once strong and vibrant, I traced my fingers around his face while he was slowly fell asleep, and I ask one final question. “Dad, you’ve had so much taken away from you. Do you ever get depressed?”
Opening his aging blue eyes once more, he smiled and replied, “Learn to pray. It takes all of the life’s pain away.” Then he closed his eyes for another night’s peaceful rest.
I will never know or understand the depths of his devotion, even though I’ve tried, but through his example, I’ve learned the sweet, warm comfort prayer does provide and will hang onto this daily ritual forever. Watching him gently and blissfully tip-toe into the final days of his life, I know there has to be a life beyond where spirits peacefully gather and watch over their loved ones. I feel my mother every day, and when my dad is no longer here, I know I’ll feel his presence too. In this, I have total faith.