Today is August 6th, my brother Joe`s birthday. He died three years ago, on June 14, of cancer. He had two weeks from his diagnosis to prepare for his death, because he died exactly two weeks after receiving the news. I can still picture him sitting on his hospital bed, his head in his hands, telling me he was never going to leave the hospital. His words are forever etched in my memory. He looked up at me and said, "So I am going to die." I remember telling Joe that it was a great grace from God to be given notice that one was about to die, so that moral preparations could be made. I reminded him that God could have taken his life at any time, but chose to give him this most wondrous grace of preparing for a holy death.
And that is just what my brother did. His rosary never left his hands, and I got him a pass from the hospital so that he could go to his Latin Mass. His perseverance amazed me there, as he knelt on the hard floor throught the entire Mass. I can't imagine what it must have cost him, as he was weak and in pain, but he never let on he was suffering. When he went up to receive Holy Communion, he came back with tears in his eyes. They were tears of joy at being given so great a gift as to receive Jesus one more time.
Two days before Joe died, he made an act of consecration to the Blessed Virgin. He didn't use a formal prayer; rather the words he chose came from his heart. I wish I could remember what he said, but it was how he said it that I will never forget. Joe's words to the Blessed Virgin were spoken with undeniable love - Shirley and I sat there and listened with tears in our eyes. It was the most beautiful prayer I have ever heard anyone say. The next day, he became weaker and slept most of the time. The following day, he died with two of my sisters praying at his bedside, and yes, he had his rosary in his hands.