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At The Bedside of The Sick and Dying

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Divine Mercy and End-of-Life Decisions

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By Darlene Dinishak

My father, Frank Dinishak, was a decorated WWII war veteran. Like veterans of other wars, my father suffered from nightmares, post-traumatic stress syndrome, and alcoholism.

Because of these unresolved issues, my father also struggled with believing in God, and he eventually stopped attending church many years ago.

Around the time my mother died from cancer in 1996, my father was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease and COPD. I prayed to our Lord and Our Lady for guidance in making the best decisions for my father. Some of his doctors asked me to sign a "do not resuscitate" (DNR) order. After reading Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life) by St. John Paul II, I realized that my father was not dying and needed to be resuscitated if his heart stopped. I told them I would not sign the papers.

I found a nursing home where I knew my father would receive good care. I checked on him frequently and took him out for various outings. The years from 1996 to 2000 hold great memories of time well spent with my father.

After five years of good care, things started changing drastically. I called a special nursing home advocacy program to make certain Dad received the best care when I was not available. By 2003, Dad's health conditions had worsened. He became angry with God, no longer wanting to see or hear anything about Him. I prayed intensely for him.

On Easter Sunday 2003, I brought Dad a church bulletin from my parish. It had a picture of the Risen Christ on it. Seeing the lovely picture of Christ, my dad was deeply touched and lovingly gazed at Christ. At that moment, I could tell Dad's heart changed and his conversion began.

The following Sunday, I offered the Divine Mercy Sunday Eucharistic Holy Hour for my father and his salvation.

A few weeks later, my father fell again and wasn't able to breathe well. He was taken to the hospital where I awaited him. I was his legal guardian, and had I not come to the emergency room, the doctors would have made decisions without me. They asked me again if I wanted to sign the DNR. I told them again, "No."

My father had to be put on a ventilator and nasal feeding tube, and remained in intensive care for two weeks. After much prayer, I decided to move him to a different rehabilitation facility.

One day, my father began aspirating and was taken to the hospital. There, my dad developed a bed sore and an infection called CDIFF. He was so sick that he could no longer have a nasal feeding tube. One doctor advised me not to have food given to him. I disagreed, and on advice from doctors and pro-life nurses who were friends of mine, I decided to have a peg-tube inserted into his abdomen, which I was told would not be uncomfortable for him.

After he returned to the nursing home, I saw obvious changes in my father. Even with oxygen, he could not breathe. He was only able to sit up to enjoy things for short periods of time.

It was obvious that God was getting ready to take my father home. Several priests came and confirmed my decision to sign the DNR, saying it was in accord with Church teaching since extraordinary measures that would prolong life do not need to be used when a person is actually dying or pronounced dead.

A wonderful thing happened a day before Dad died. He seemed to be remarkably better, sitting up, laughing, and at peace. That night, I went to see Dad, only to find that everything had changed. His vital signs were weak. I was told to go home and try to sleep; the nursing home would call me when death was nearer.

At 3 a.m., I received the expected call. My friend came with me, and we prayed the Rosary and Chaplet of Divine Mercy by his bedside. At about 6 a.m., I saw his smile and blue eyes, and he looked lovingly at me. I reassured him that it was okay for him to return to the Lord, and that my mother was waiting for him. He laid back down on the elevated pillows and was given continued oxygen and pain medication. As his breathing became labored, my friend and I prayed the Chaplet of Divine Mercy one last time. Following the "Holy God, Holy Mighty One, Holy Immortal One," a miraculous event occurred. My father opened his eyes, extended his arms and hands, and was drawn forward off the pillows. He had the most loving, tender look in his eyes, directed at whoever had come for him. He then gently fell back onto the pillows. I experienced complete joy thinking that our Lord Himself had most likely appeared to Dad at the end of the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. Dad lingered for a while. At his final hour, a priest came to bless him. His feeding tube and oxygen were removed, and as soon as Father left, Dad passed on to eternal life.

At Dad's funeral Mass, I provided programs with the Chaplet of Divine Mercy and displayed the Image by his casket. This devotion to the Divine Mercy helped Dad on his journey back to the Lord. Had I not made these decisions for life, Dad may not have received the extra time that he needed.

It is so important to pray when you are faced with these difficult decisions and to know what the Church teaches about life.

To learn more about praying for the sick and dying, see our booklet, At the Bedside of the Sick and Dying at ShopMercy.org or call 1-800-462-7426.

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HJ - Jan 13, 2018

My mother's kidneys failed shortly before her 90th birthday. My father was told she needed to either be put on dialysis 3X a week for 3 hours at a time or to have all but comfort care and"let her go". My Dad insisted on the latter. She was taken off all machines except her oxygen, and a week later was moved to home hospice. With the morphine and Ativan, she slept a good deal, and 3 days after coming home, she passed away in her sleep. Three months later, my Dad, who was also in very poor health, also passed away. My question: Should he have fought more to keep my Mom alive? he told me that he and Mom had often discussed that situation (I knew that), and he said that keeping her alive on dialysis would have been more than she could bear. Now I'm worried---both of them have died, and now I worry that they died in sin.

Samantha - Jan 13, 2018

Blessed Be God for this inspirational and affirming testimony thankyou!