If you have asked yourself lately: Why Fr. Juan has not written anything on his blog? the answer is: because I am in the grieving process. I lost my dad about a month ago and that change the dynamics of my life as a newly ordained priest. I am grateful that my dad was able to see me ordained as a priest. I was able to anoint him. I also celebrated numerous Holy Masses by his deathbed having my nieces as my altar servers. Yes, it has been a difficult time for my family and myself but the Lord has been great as He is showing me the way of consolation. Many family members and friends expressed to me and my family their sadness at hearing the news. Likewise, when I came back to the States my mailbox was packed with condolence cards. I felt not only the warm love of the Lord through my prayer, but through the people inside and outside of the parish who has shown support and empathy along this grieving process. I feel that I am growing in knowing more about my own suffering and the suffering of others especially when I celebrate funerals and I have a conversation with families who have lost a loved one.
Seeing my dad suffering from Parkinson Disease for more than a decade and seeing him more than five years almost paralyzed by this disease helped me to see suffering from a different standpoint. I gained knowledge of the disease and I was aware of the needs of my dad who was giving up little by little. Comorbidity (or the simultaneous presence of two chronic diseases or conditions in a patient), was taking a toll on father’s health. By the way, the comorbidity of anxiety and depression in Parkinson’s disease was diagnosed by a neurologist making things even worse for him.
As a family, we got united to take care of my dad. Even during my last 2 years in the seminary, I had to hire a caregiver to help us out. During my vacation, I took the time to take care of my dad personally. I talked with my father about “unfinished businesses” and some problems of the past that were not resolved. Those dialogues opened my mind and my heart to start entering into the suffering of a person who worked for more than three decades in the same place taking just a few days off here and there but who refused to take his vacation time just because he was a workaholic (and an alcoholic too).
I just visited him for the new year last January and his prognosis was not good at all. He was very weak. We met as a family to forgive each other because my dad needed this kind of reconciliation. It was a moment of forgiveness and growing. Recognizing everyone’s mistakes was also helpful for my father who was almost always asking for forgiveness; the message was clear: we were in peace with each other and we expressed that with a big hug and some tears.
When I heard the news about his death, I was in my office. My dad just turned 72 on February 10th and he passed on the 15th. The same night I took a plane to Venezuela. I presided and preached the Funeral Mass that weekend, I was there for the burial and the Novena. I was present and with some sort of “spiritual numbness” at the same time. I am still grieving and growing in faith that my dad had a peaceful death; even when he was suffering, he was able to praise God. I prayed with him several times and reminded him of the importance of prayer in his life.
The reading that helped me along the way is 2 Corinthians 5, 1-10:
5 For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. 2 Meanwhile, we groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, 3 because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. 4 For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. 5 Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come. 6 Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. 7 For we live by faith, not by sight. 8 We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 9 So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.
Lately, I have dreamed about my dad couple of times. I think that I have not recovered, but I will keep fighting the good fight. Prayer always help. I want to invite you to celebrate the life of my dad, Guillermo Sandoval on Saturday, April 14th at 6:00 pm in our Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul followed by a reception in the Hall. Thanks for your prayers that make me grow in the Lord… I am grieving and growing.