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Jun 30, 2021 617 Mary Therese Emmons, USA
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Never Give Up

Praying for your loved ones? Here’s a story to keep you hopeful

Only Yesterday

I remember it like it was yesterday—sitting in a dimly-lit living room with my future father-in-law after a holiday meal. It was the first time I had met my boyfriend’s parents, and I was noticeably nervous. The family had scattered after dinner, leaving Harry and I to engage in small talk by the fire. I had heard so much about him and was excited to have this opportunity to converse. Harry was truly larger than life with an incredible sense of humor. He was the father of six children—hardworking, an equestrian record holder and a veteran of an elite military organization. I was dating his oldest son.

I had admired him long before I met him and hoped to make a good impression. I, too, came from a large family, and was a devout Catholic—something I hoped he would view favorably. I knew that Harry had grown up in the Catholic Church, but left long before he married and started a family. This was something that piqued my curiosity and I wanted to know more—to understand why. What could have made him leave this faith that I, even as a teenager, loved so dearly? When the topic of religion eventually came up in conversation, I excitedly shared with him my devotion to the faith. His response was unexpected and heart-sinking. He nonchalantly, almost coldly, stated that he was once a Catholic—even an altar boy, but now he was not sure if he could even remember the Lord’s Prayer. Wanting to respond without sounding disrespectful, I quietly mentioned how sad that was—and I deeply felt it. This conversation left an impression on me and I kept this memory closely tucked away.

Glimmering Lights

The years came and went, and my husband and I held Harry close in prayer— hoping that one day he would return to the faith. Harry was there for my marriage to his son in the Catholic Church. He was there for the sacramental celebrations for our children, and he was even there the day his own son became a Catholic.

Unable to hold back my tears of joy as I watched my husband’s baptism, the memory of my conversation with his father, ten years earlier, came flooding back and I felt the very slightest heat of anger—anger that my husband’s father had cheated him out of a faith-filled upbringing. My husband wanted more for his own children. He had not just been supportive of raising our family in the Catholic faith, he himself felt an inner longing for more. His initiation into the Catholic Church was a wonderful example of his own deep faith and trust.

I saw small glimmers of faith in Harry over the years, and I always believed there was still some conviction buried deep in his heart. When my husband was diagnosed with cancer, my father-in-law told me in confidence that he was praying to Our Lady for him, as he had always had a deep devotion to her. This was something he had never told anyone, and he confided in me. I felt a genuine happiness in knowing that this dedication, although unseen, was still in there. Optimistically, my husband and I continued to pray for Harry’s full return to the faith.

A Priceless Gift

The year 2020 was cruel to many, and my dear father-in-law was one of its victims. Having taken a bad fall, he was placed in a rehabilitation facility with no personal contact for weeks. His health was beginning to fail, and this strong, vibrant man was beginning to shrink—in stature as well as in light—as the onset of dementia had also become clear. My husband decided to take a chance and ask his father if he would like a visit from a Catholic priest. To our utter surprise, he eagerly agreed—and asked me to supply a copy of the Lord’s Prayer to refresh his memory. Once again, my conversation with him as a teenager immediately came to mind, but this time I felt excitement and hope.

In the days that followed, my husband accompanied a priest to his father’s home as mobility was limited now. Harry confidently participated in the Sacrament of Penance and accepted the offering of Holy Communion from his own son. Receiving both of these sacraments for the first time in nearly sixty years was a priceless gift. Harry received the Anointing of the Sick as well, and these precious sacraments indisputably gave him the graces to live out his final weeks in peace.

In his final days, his son brought him a rosary, and prayed it around his bedside with our children—knowing that Harry was now walking the fine line between this life and the next. As a devoted child of Our Lady, this seemed a fitting goodbye. Harry passed away peacefully soon afterwards, and our hearts will forever be filled with gratitude to our merciful God and Our Lady for bringing Harry back to the faith before he passed on. Knowing that Harry is at peace with the heavenly angels is of great comfort to us. It may have taken him decades to acknowledge it, after years of unceasing prayers, and a final chance offer from his loving son, but his faith was there. It was always there.

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Mary Therese Emmons

Mary Therese Emmons is a busy mother of four teenagers. She has spent more than 25 years as a catechist at her local parish, teaching the Catholic faith to young children. She lives with her family in Montana, United States of America.

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