When I was 54, my husband Mario died, at 58, of spinal cancer, just 6 weeks after he was diagnosed. He had been being treated for a sprained muscle in his neck, which turned out to be 2 cracked discs in his spine in the neck area. He was in such pain that I honestly was truly grateful when he was taken home to be with other loved ones in Heaven. I know that his parents were waiting there for him. When I found that my husband had died in the night, I saw that his eyes were open and very clear, and he had such a peaceful expression on his face.
At first, I was not only truly grieving, but also angry at God that I hadn’t had my 50 or so years with him. He was my best friend, constant companion, and loving husband. Then, one day, I said to myself, “You idiot! You had 32 years with him, and how lucky you were to have them. Appreciate that, as so many people today don’t have that many years together, for whatever reasons.” God gave me those 32+ years with my best friend. Of course it wasn’t always moonlight and roses. Reality is that there are rough spots in every relationship, but we had weathered those, and the wonderful times far outweighed the rough ones.
I lost 3 people within 4 years: my father, my 2-year-old grandson (who tragically drowned), and then my husband. When my father died, we had a special family service in St. Michael’s historic Chapel and my mother proudly pointed out that he’d made the two shelves on either side of the altar on which to put flower arrangements. Later, there was a huge service in the church which was filled with family, friends, and many people from the community. He had started out as the only letter carrier in Carlsbad when it was a rural route. Later, he was employed by the USPS and delivered mail to most of Carlsbad during the late 40s and early 50s, eventually becoming the Postmaster of Carlsbad.
A few years following my husband’s death, I lost my mother. It was so hard to lose these loved ones… but I knew where they were going! They were being taken care of in a wonderful place.
When I lost my grandson, I was so distraught that God sent me a message so I knew that he was all right. I was wide-awake and had a vision: I saw my grandson in Heaven. He was still 2 years old, and was dressed in green corduroy pants and a widely striped green and white long-sleeved polo type shirt.
It was such a vivid sight that I can describe it in great detail to this day. He was walking down a dirt road, on either side of which were fields of golden grain, about 2 ½ feet tall. He was accompanied by a robed figure who held his hand as he walked along. It was the bluest sky I had even seen, and the grain was waving beautifully in a gentle breeze. They were heading down the road toward a lovely pond which was semi-surrounded by green shade trees. I had the impression that perhaps they were going fishing in the pond, though I didn’t see any fishing equipment. It was such a truly serene place and time, and I thanked God that he’d let me see that Spencer was happy, and being taken care of, and was going to be all right. I look forward to seeing him again one day, perhaps being held by my mother and father.
St. Michael’s began calling my mother “St. Dorothy”, to her great embarrassment. To this day, there are older members of the congregation who refer to her as St. Dorothy, and they said that she truly was a saint. I believe that. She managed to raise 5 rambunctious children, who led her a merry chase. When I started college, that same year one brother started high school, and the youngest sister started Kindergarten. Wow, that takes some amazing patience, and a lot of very hard work!
As she lay dying of leukemia, bedridden, there was a constant stream of visitors to see her. I think almost every parishioner came by, as well as neighbors and friends from all over Carlsbad. Her driveway was never empty. We were especially grateful to Daisy and Peter Rathbone, who came every single day that she was too ill to leave her bed and brought communion to her—EVERY DAY! Cliff and Nan Leighton brought special treats, hoping to tempt her in her waning appetite, especially a pecan waffle from a downtown diner that she had been especially fond of! Bless them and all of the St. Michael’s family who made her last weeks so wonderful, and such a help to all five of us to see the love that was held for her by one and all.
When she died, my brother and I were with her. She had lapsed into unconsciousness, in what I believe was probably a coma. Suddenly, my brother and I heard a change in her breathing on the monitor we had placed near her. We rushed in to find her still unconscious, with extremely difficult, stertorous breathing. My brother took one of her hands and I took the other, and then we held each other’s free hand. It was a circle of family helping her on her way. My brother leaned over and gave her a kiss, and said, “It’s all right to let go, Mom. We love you.”
I kissed her other cheek, told her that I loved her, agreed that it was all right to go, if she was ready. Then I said, “The angels are here to carry you up to see God, Mom. It’s all right. You can go with them.”
As soon as I said those last words, she let out one long, long breath, the last to leave her body.
I immediately called St. Michael’s. The priest was there within 10 minutes, and hugged and comforted us, and said prayers over and for her as she left on her final journey.
I have been so blessed by the St. Michael’s family and am truly grateful for their prayers, their caring for me during a serious illness, and for their prayers for all of my family. The support that I have received was truly a godsend and helped me through some difficult times.
The loss of family and friends is painful, but I am — and you can be — confident that they are in a wonderful place, with God, and other loved ones. I’ve seen a part of it, and know that I will see these loved ones again when God finally calls me home.
This article was written by parishioner Ginny Unanue and published in the Fall 2017 Messenger.