At around that time, Jim, Megan and I finally headed out the door of Seton High School. The awards ceremony was over. The photos were all taken for the year book and it was time to head home. Marcia had called me immediately before the ceremony began. I had difficulty hearing her over the din of chatter and laughter as parents and students filed into the gymnasium to find their seats. I headed to the back of the gym, cell phone in hand, and asked Marcia to repeat what she had told me. "Papa is fading fast." Okay. I explained where I was and told her I'd call later for an update. Earlier that morning I had already told my brother that I would call him after the awards ceremony. So, I did - from the car on the way home. I think it was about 10:40 p.m., but there was no answer. I wondered and prayed once more.
We weren't in the house for very long before the phone rang. Megan answered and then called for me. "Mom, please come to the phone." As she handed it to me, she said, "It's Uncle Jimmy. Papa just died about 10 minutes ago."
I wanted details. I wanted to know who was there. Mom, Peggy and Marcia. Had he ever regained consciousness? No. How did it happen? My brother explained how tired he was, it was getting late and he thought he should perhaps get some sleep, but he was inspired first to pray with those gathered. My mom held one of her darling's hands and Marcia the other one. My sister gently rested her own hand on his sweet head. Surrounded by love, as Fr. Jim finished the concluding prayers, Papa took one last breath and ever so gently gave up his spirit. As a priest, my brother has prayed this prayer many times before for others near death, but never before has he witnessed a soul passing from one life to the next immediately following the prayer. I asked him to read the words of the prayer to me and in hearing them, I knew that my prayer and the prayers of many had been answered that night.
Papa Ern's soul took flight accompanied by all the saints and angels, by Mary, our dear blessed Mother, and good St. Joseph. He entered his final resting place full of the peace and joy of his Savior. And our love, too, carried him there and will remain with him always and for ever.
Prayer of Commendation of the Dying
I commend you, my dear brother, to almighty God
and entrust you to your creator.
May you return to him
who formed you from the dust of the earth.
May holy Mary, the angels, and all the saints
come meet you as you go forth from this life.
May Christ who was crucified for you
bring you freedom and peace.
May Christ who died for you
admit you into his garden of paradise.
May Christ the true Shepherd
acknowledge you as one of his flock.
May he forgive all your sins,
and set you among those he has chosen.
May you see the Redeemer face to face,
And enjoy the vision of God for ever.