By Deb Forstner | The Central Minnesota Catholic
Here is something I’ve come to know about taking a journey: one never knows exactly how it is going to turn out. A person can strategize and plan, read in depth, even get in the best possible physical condition for making the trip. Yet, things may happen beyond one’s control, leading to detours, unexpected turbulence or even roadblocks where a person needs to put it in reverse and try an entirely different way.
With our Catholic faith, we have sacraments, and they help strengthen us throughout this journey of life. On Sunday evening, July 31, 2023, I had my last phone conversation with my mom. She had taken a fall earlier in the day but was in good spirits. Nothing was broken and though she was sore and her leg badly bruised, she claimed it to be just yet another chapter in the book of life.
In the next couple days, she never fully woke up, though our family was blessed by some lovely words and moments from and with her. The biggest blessing for me perhaps was when my parents’ parish priest quickly responded to the call to come with sacred oil to anoint her and laid a small piece of Holy Communion on her tongue.
In my work as a chaplain, I have witnessed several final sacramental anointings so beautifully performed by priests. However, it was a surreal and tearful experience for me as reality sunk in that unlike those situations, this was my mom. She died the morning of August 2.
I am certainly not the first among you to experience the loss of a loved one to death. But I believe that we all are really walking each other home, to that next place called heaven. I think of the photo I have of my mom in her First Communion dress and I picture her in bed at age 88 receiving her final piece of consecrated bread on this earth. How blessed we are to be on this journey as Eucharistic people.
This is a time of Eucharistic Revival in the United States. As we walk up the aisle at church to receive the Eucharist and prayerfully return to our pews, or if we are lucky enough to receive Communion in the form of Viaticum, which means soon before our bodies die and our souls go to heaven, let us remember that this revival is to help us believe totally in the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. There really is no finer gift.
Deb Forstner is the editor of the Journey newsletter for the Pelican Valley Catholic Community, which includes the parishes of Our Lady of Victory in Fergus Falls, St. Elizabeth in Elizabeth and St. Leonard in Pelican Rapids.