As I sat, knelt, and laid by my father's deathbed just two weeks ago, the Lord taught me many things; and showered me in such graces and blessings and mercy that I was left in awe of His kindness and humbled at His generosity.
If you have never experienced it before, it is REALLY difficult to watch someone slowly die. Of course, when that "someone" is a person you love, cherish, rely on, and NEED in your life, it becomes a heart-wrenching challenge to accept and embrace the events that are unfolding before your eyes.
My Dad was a hard-working man. Even in high school, he had to drop out a year to go to work and help his family; returning later to finish school with my mother's graduating class. (That's how God brought them together and went on to bless them with 64 years of marriage!)
During my father's last 3 days, he had long periods of AGONY. At times, I didn't think I could bear a single moment more...it was especially traumatic to see a look of "FEAR" on his fragile, and suffering face. (I would sing hymns to him and comfort him with the Divine Mercy Chaplet...stroking his hair and telling him it was OK to let go and reach out for Christ's welcoming arms).
At one point, I begged God out loud, "Dear Lord...he has done nothing but work and work HARD for You his whole, entire life...does he also have to 'WORK" now to DIE????? PLEASE spare him of this agony".
I can not adequately articulate what next transpired. Thus, I hope you will forgive my rudimentary attempt.
Somehow...(and for those who are accustomed to the quiet way in which God sometimes speaks to our hearts, you might relate)...God spoke to my heart in that instant...in silence...and yet SO clearly and lovingly...and...I think...sternly.
He asked, "Oh Judy...don't you see? Why can't you understand? THIS is his Purgatory; which I am allowing him to serve on EARTH so that He may join me in Heaven today".
All at once, each and every moment that my father moaned, cried out, choked, or gasped for air, became, not a punishment or aimless trial or suffering IN VAIN...but rather...a BEAUTIFUL, MERCIFUL, WONDERFUL GIFT from his own LOVING FATHER in HEAVEN.
"I am SO SORRY, Lord", I cried. "Yes...NOW I see".
And, I realize too, that in some way...WATCHING my Dad in his hour of agony...though it caused ME great suffering...was also a gift...because I was able to offer up each moment of my own pain and grief for the reparation of my sins and for so many intentions. (YOU were all a part of those prayers, as well!)
During the last five years of my father's life...he suffered greatly. Actually, all THROUGH my father's life...he was never a stranger to suffering. But, during those last years, when he was in and out of hospitals almost weekly, at times...he said to me, "I'm hoping that I can take care of all of this suffering so that you kids won't have to".
I believe that God hears and answers prayers like these. I believe that He would, indeed, allow my Dad to "suffer for His children's sake".
I believe He DID allow it.
And, I believe, that because the Lord offered "Purgatory" to my father on earth...he was able to join the Saints in Paradise when he released his final breath on June 27th, 2011.
Suffering the temporal punishments for our sins, and enduring trials and sufferings while we are on earth, is not some form of a curse, dished out by a cruel and thoughtless God.