Dear Fr. Rafael,
First of all, I want to thank you and all the members of the Home of the Mother for the spiritual support that you have shown to me and to my entire family. Secondly, I am writing while these happenings are still fresh in my mind. This way, the passing of time will not diminish my memory of the events, nor my affection change the way I see things. Although is not easy for me to express this sorrowful experience, it has been an immense grace received through Sr. Clare’s intercession.
Despite my mother’s fatal illness, she lived long enough to receive the Anointing of the Sick in a completely conscious state, and I was able to visit with her for three hours. Fr. Rafael, I truly feel that this was a grace received through Sr. Clare. From the moment I knew of the severity of my mother’s situation, I asked Sr. Clare for this grace. Also, it was amazing to see how our Blessed Mother came for my mother. I am totally convinced of this.
On Thursday, March 30, 2017, I went to work as usual at Mitcheldean, located in the Forest of Dean, United Kingdom. Meanwhile, in Spain, the day had begun much earlier, at approximately 1:30 am, when my mother started to feel nauseous and experience chest and back pain. My father called a taxi to bring her to the emergency room, and when they arrived the doctors started to carry out tests to see what was wrong.
Later that morning, my wife, Isabel, brought David, our son, to school. Afterwards, she went to Mass at 9:30 am, where she would usually meet with my parents. That day she did not see them there, and thank God, she called them to see how they were doing. They told her that they were in the hospital, but that she should not worry because the doctors were about to sign the release forms… and they told her not to tell me anything. Isabel went to the hospital regardless. She found them in the ER with the release form in their hands and my mother about to get dressed to go home. She found out that my mother had suffered drastic and uncontrollable changes in her blood pressure all throughout the night.
Isabel was helping my mother get dressed to go home, when she collapsed due to a drop in her blood pressure of 6/3. Fortunately, this happened while she was sitting down so she did not fall to the floor. Isabel laid her on the bed and called the doctor, causing them to stay in the ER a bit longer. We are lucky it happened in that moment and not later, because she started to vomit blood, and Isabel called for the doctor again. Thank God they were able to bring her back. They started to do tests that they hadn’t thought of doing before, because my mother had no history of heart disease in her family.
This is when I first received news of what was happening through an email:
From: Isabel Bandera
Sent: Thursday, March 30, 2017 1:32 PM
To: Cruz Palacios, David
Hi Honey, I am in the hospital with your parents. Your mom isn’t feeling well. They were going to release her, but they have to do more tests. If you want, you can call me. Don’t worry.
When I called, the conversation wasn’t exactly comforting, because I noticed that Isabel was trying to avoid explaining things to me. I prepared myself to leave in any moment. It was going to be difficult to find a flight, especially if I had to get one for that same day, because in the two nearby airports there were no flights available.
On 03/30/2017 at 1:42 pm “Cruz Palacios, David” wrote:
There are tickets for tomorrow from Bristol and Birmingham… If I have to come this afternoon or tonight I can see if there are flights from London.
Please, tell me how things are going.
From: Isabel Bandera
Sent: Thursday, March 30, 2017 2:54 PM
To: Cruz Palacios, David
David, please call me!
As soon as the doctors had given a more detailed diagnosis to Isabel, she wanted to tell me everything as soon as possible, but they told her to wait until they had talked to the cardiologist. They told her that my mother had an “aortic dissection.” Isabel didn’t wait any longer. She knew that it was something very serious, so she left the ER to call me. Her words were, “Come quickly.” As soon as she told me that, I left immediately.
Isabel’s decision to call me right then and there was part of “heaven’s perfect timing” in everything that was to follow. If she had waited to call me until the doctors had met with the cardiologist…
I immediately left work without stopping for anything, without an airplane ticket, repeating “Sr. Clare, help me.” I didn’t know what airport to go to. I only mentioned to a couple of co-workers that I was leaving, just in case anything happened.
I called the secretary who works in the department of Vitoria to see if they could get me a ticket as soon as possible. I also called a friend of mine to see if he could give me any ideas of where to go. He told me to go to Heathrow, the airport in London. The area where I work is in the middle of a forest with rural roads close to Gales; the road to any other airport don’t come up until miles and miles ahead. In those moments, before I had come to any certain conclusion about what to do, the secretary called me with two different flights for that same day from the Heathrow airport, one that was leaving in an hour and a half and another that was leaving in two hours. The GPS was telling me that I was going to take two hours to get to the airport. I had to try it. I asked the secretary to book the second flight at 5:10 pm.
Now that the question of the ticket was resolved, what was left was the trip to the airport. I started to do the math and realized that there wasn’t enough time for me to catch the plane. While I was driving, I prayed rosaries nonstop, without counting the decades. I was going over the speed limit but at the same time, I couldn’t risk being pulled over. At one point, a profound anxiety started to take over my body: my fingers felt like stone and I couldn’t move a muscle. At the same time, I started crying and trembling uncontrollably. I had the feeling that my mother was going to die right then and there. I cried out to Sr. Clare: “Please, keep her alive… Please!!!”
Despite the anguish that I felt in that moment, I recovered mobility and serenity little by little and continued driving. I returned the rental car in the airport, but left it without any gas and with a popped tire. I didn’t have to tell the clerk anything. I handed him the keys and he didn’t ask me to wait until they finished looking the car over to sign the bill. That was strange, because they usually make you wait.
I started to walk, and immediately saw a bus that could bring me to Terminal 5. These buses usually pass by every 10 or 15 minutes. When I got to the terminal, I didn’t even have to think about where to go because I was right in front of Departures with the elevator waiting for me. I got into the terminal and I heard an announcement about the lines being very long to get through security. Right then, I realized that the work shoes I was wearing had a steal toe. I started to think that they were going to give me problems and make me go through additional security… But the long lines that had been announced over the loudspeaker turned out to be a line of only 3 people, and I had no problem whatsoever with my shoes.
I got to the gate on time. There was not one empty seat on the flight! I had gotten the last seat available. Before I left, I called Isabel once more to make sure that my mother was calm and peaceful in the hospital room. I sent Isabel the phone number for the Parish of St. Leandro so that she could call and ask the priest to come to the hospital. But by the time I called, Isabel had already called the pastor of our parish, Fr. Javier, even though my parents hadn’t wanted to bother him. And the three other priests of our parish had come to visit my mother. She had received the Anointing of the Sick. During my mother’s funeral Mass, the presiding priest, Fr. Amador, said that she had gone to confession the day before.
I checked my email once more and read a message from a doctor friend of mine, Humberto, who said that my mother’s illness was very serious. I spent the flight praying rosaries nonstop and remembering what I had asked of Sr. Clare. Despite the tension and the monotony of the flight, I did not want to sleep so that I could continue to pray. I was starting to get used to the idea that my mother was going to die sooner or later. I got to the Madrid-Barajas airport at 8:45 pm. I got a taxi and reached the hospital at 9:30 pm. Isabel had just gone home to spend the night with David, who had been with Monica and Quino since he got out of school.
As soon as I reached the hospital, I went to the chapel. It was closed. Right in front of the door I asked the Lord for strength. I went to see my mother and I found her conscious, completely alert, and we were able to have a conversation that filled me with peace. It was not a goodbye, but rather a normal conversation with my mother. She said that I had lost weight and she told me to be responsible and to take care of myself. The only thing she was worried about was for me to go home. She could barely talk because her throat was dry and hurting. She was very thirsty: the doctors did not allow her to drink because whenever she drank she would throw it up. I wet her lips a few times. She was very grateful for that, but she could hardly say anything due to the pain that the dryness of her throat was causing her. Her whole body was hurting and she couldn’t find a comfortable position.
I tried to get my mother to rest and told my father to pray the rosary by her bedside. When we reached the fifth mystery, I saw my mother raise her head and look at the ceiling while making the Sign of the Cross. In that moment, I knew that she was going to go soon. It reminded me of the statue in Lourdes that represents our Lady coming down to collect the soul of a dying person.
A few minutes later, she tried to get up. It seemed like she was going to go to the bathroom. My father tried to stop her. In that moment, she raised her gaze and her arms and took a deep breath with her eyes gazing upwards. I immediately called the nurses. They came very quickly. They told us to leave the room, but ended up coming to get us within a few minutes to say our goodbyes; there was nothing else that they could do for her. It was approximately 11:45 pm. They certified her death at 11:49 pm on Thursday, March 30, 2017.
The rest of the night and the following days were very difficult, but I would like to extend my most heartfelt gratitude to the Home of the Mother, especially to Quino and Monica, who took care of David while we were dealing with this whole situation.
I would also like to thank Sr. Teresa Maria from the bottom of my heart, because during these past few months she has been giving me an authentic catechesis that has helped strengthen my faith in “life”. I have been taping an audiobook for her based on the texts of Maria Simma and her experiences with the souls in purgatory. My mother always remembered to pray for the souls in purgatory, every day and all day.
All the best to you, and thank you for everything.
David Cruz Palacios