Last September, my oldest brother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. I knew immediately that his prognosis was poor. He had just been in town to visit with us all in August for our Dad's 87th birthday and we could tell then that he wasn't feeling well.
David was my half-brother from my dad's first marriage. He was 15 when I was born and joined the Air Force when I was three, so I didn't have many memories of him being with us, but we always visited back and forth every year during my growing up times.
My dad is not Catholic; in fact, his grandfather was a Lutheran minister and Dad was his only grandchild. David's mother wasn't Catholic, so he was raised in the Protestant faith. However, when David was diagnosed with cancer, I started praying the rosary and the Divine Mercy chaplet for him on a regular basis.
We went to visit him in early November. They live in rural Arkansas, a beautiful place in the Ozark Mountains where they moved after David had retired from being a police officer. Not many people live in the area; Catholic churches are scarce. We had to drive 45 minutes each way to go to Mass when we were there. Not at all like Cincinnati, where there is a Catholic church within 5-10 minutes anywhere you go.
We had a good visit; though a very sad one. I thought that it would be the last time I would see him this side of heaven.
However, in December, he was determined to come home one more time. The week before Christmas, his wife drove him here. They stayed at a hotel just 5 minutes away from us because it had a handicapped bathroom and facilities and they knew this would be easier for him. He literally spent his days here in bed. We would go to visit for an hour or two until he needed to rest. When he left that last morning, he looked so bad that we all knew it would be the last time we would see him.
I had still been praying for him....not really sure how he stood spiritually. I knew he attended a Presbyterian church sometimes, but I didn't know how devout he was.
On Christmas Day, he called for the last time. My whole family was at my house for dinner, and we all took turns talking to him. He was extremely weak. We had prayed that he would make it through Christmas Day for his family and the dear Lord answered our prayers. The next day he started slipping into unconsciousness....we knew the end was near.
I stepped up my prayers for him....going to Adoration; praying the Divine Mercy chaplet; praying the rosary...asking our dear Blessed Mother for his salvation.
On New Year's Eve, just minutes before midnight, I received the call that he had passed away. We were at a party with friends from our Catholic community and it was such a blessing to be with those dear people at that time. They all stopped and we prayed the Divine Mercy chaplet together for his soul....they were all such a comfort to me.
The next day was spent on the telephone, literally, as we called back and forth to find out the arrangements for the funeral; making arrangements for traveling there.
My sister-in-law called me and surprised me by asking me if I wanted my rosary back. My rosary?
She said that after we had visited in November, they had found a beautiful blue and silver rosary on David's bedpost. On his nightstand, there was a black rosary in a rosary case. They thought I had left them there. I told them it wasn't me. We asked my brother who had also been on that trip with us and he hadn't left it either. We then asked my other siblings. None of us had left the rosary. We were the only Catholics they knew; none of their friends down there were Catholic. No one knew anything about where the rosaries had come from. He had asked my youngest brother about the rosary when he visited here in December and my brother had given him a pamphlet on how to say it.
It remained a mystery.
It was a stressful week getting ready to go. My parents were dismayed and distressed because they were both ill and neither were able to travel there.
We arrived Thursday evening, right at the beginning of the visitation time. I walked up to the casket and there was my brother laying there, holding the beautiful blue and silver rosary in his hands. It wasn't a cheap plastic rosary; it had beautiful blue beads and a silver filigree crucifix. I cried to see it. It felt like a gift; a sign from our dear Blessed Mother that my prayers, and the prayers of many others, had been answered. A promise of our Lord's endless mercy.....