I spent Ash Wednesday 2011 in the hospital with my grandfather two days before he passed away. This certainly made that Ash Wednesday incredibly memorable and emotional for me and my family.
It all started the weekend before, when he passed out and fell while at home. An ambulance brought him to the hospital and I met them there. I looked into his eyes in the emergency room and saw his pain. I knew that these would be his final days with us. I practically lived at the hospital for the next few days while he was in and out of consciousness. My grandfather prayed the rosary faithfully, so I made a hand-knotted twine rosary for him to pray in his hospital bed. I would see his fingers moving along the knots while whispering the prayers. I joined him a few times in praying. I prayed for God to take my grandfather home so he’d be free of this pain.
Our entire family was at the hospital on Ash Wednesday and a priest came to comfort us, anoint my grandfather, bring us the Eucharist and give us ashes. Watching the priest trace a cross of ashes on my grandfather’s forehead brought new meaning to the words, “You are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
During my grandfather's final days, we didn’t reminisce about any of the material possessions he had or his career. In his final days, my grandfather didn’t cling to his home, his retirement plan or his car. He held on to our Blessed Mother and his rosary while surrounded by his children and grandchildren. He told each of us that he loved us. And we were ready to continue his legacy of love, laughter and faith.
As we begin Lent with the words, “You are dust, and to dust you shall return,” we are called to focus on what is eternal – our faith in God and our hope for our eternal reward with Him. I pray we all have a blessed and fruitful Lenten journey.
“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin that so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1
Ms. Siegel with her grandfather at her college graduation
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