Blessed with Beautiful Last Words

She experienced a miraculous moment of prayer.

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Hands illuminated by light and open in prayer.

Once a week I volunteered at a nursing home in Peoria. I was a Eucharistic minister, so I prayed with patients and gave them Communion. When I arrived one day I was met by Margaret, another volunteer. “Nancy, there’s a patient who’s near death,” she said. “She’s all alone. Would you pray with her?”

“Of course.”

Death was no stranger here, but I never got used to it. I was glad I didn’t have to go to this patient on my own. Once a month a priest visited the home with me to say Mass. As luck would have it, this was one of those weeks. He could pray with her too and give her Last Rites. It was good to know that she could have that comfort in her final moments.

Father and I followed Margaret to the patient’s room. As we neared the door we met a nurse just coming out. “I’m so sorry, you’re too late,” she said when she saw us.

Oh no, I thought. Had the woman died before we got to her room? “She’s still alive,” the nurse explained. “But she’s no longer able to talk or understand things going on around her. So she won’t be able to pray with you.”

“We understand,” the priest said. The patient lay in bed with her eyes closed. No reaction when we came into the room. Father went to her side and took her hand, whispering prayers into her ear. Still nothing. At least she has someone to pray for her, I thought, since she can’t pray herself.

The priest straightened up. “Our Father, who art in heaven,” he said out loud. Margaret and I stepped closer and joined in the prayer. “Hallowed be thy name...” We all clasped hands. Our three voices spoke the words together. Then—

A fourth voice joined in. It was the patient. Her eyes were still closed. She hadn’t moved. But when she spoke, her words were as clear as day. She continued with us until the end of the prayer. Then, with a final “Amen” she went silent again.

She died shortly after. But she couldn’t have been blessed with better last words.

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