A few weeks ago, my father was diagnosed with cancer. It was a devastating reminder that we should all live each day as if it were our last. Instead of having years to look forward to, daddy was given months. As quickly as his condition is deteriorating, his time will more likely be numbered in days.
Tonight my daddy received Last Rites. Instead of bringing me comfort and joy, I am filled with sadness and guilt. You see, daddy is not a Catholic. He never was. He never wanted to be. Mama was, and she prayed fervently for his conversion, but he never expressed a willingness to even consider the possibility. It would have been an affront to his own religious beliefs.
So why and how did Daddy receive Last Rites? My sister. Years ago, he had signed a Power of Attorney granting her control over everything. Over the years, he repeatedly mentioned the need to change that but never did. I would like to blame it on procrastination but it was more than that. This particular sister is a terror when she does not get her way. If people question her motives or actions, she gets very loud, very mean and very spiteful. Her tantrums are legendary. Daddy hated confrontation of any kind so he avoided doing anything that might upset her. It was fear and dread that kept him from acting, not laziness.
Last year, Daddy moved in with a nice lady named Bonny. He told me that he loved her and would have married her, but Bonny’s only source of income was her widow’s benefits. They could not survive on his disability alone. Daddy asked me to make sure that Bonny was always taken care of. That promise has been broken. My sister sent her husband to clear all of dad’s belongings out of their house; not just sentimental things that belonged solely to dad but things they accumulated together. Forget money, poor Bonny will not even have a memento to remember him by.
Daddy asked me to make sure that Bonny would never be excluded from his life. That promise has also been broken. My sister intercepts phone calls and tells daddy that Bonny never called. She hid his laptop so that he cannot go online. She told Bonny to leave because she was not welcome, then told daddy that she never came by. When my sister did finally relent and allow Bonny a brief visit, she made it clear that it would never happen again if daddy was upset in any way. In other words, if Bonny called my sister on her lies, she would not be allowed to visit him again. I want desperately to let my daddy know that he has not been abandoned, but I also see him at her mercy. If I upset him, I will not be allowed to visit him either. Bonny cries and begs me to honor daddy’s wishes but I am powerless.
Daddy asked me to make sure that my sister did not give him a Catholic burial or last rites or any of that “voodoo Catholic stuff.” That promise has also been broken. Tonight, when my sister’s priest showed up at the hospital, my heart broke. I am Catholic heart and soul, but I feel like daddy was betrayed. I gathered the nerve to ask, in front of the priest, if daddy was okay with it. She lied and said yes. How does one lie to a priest with a straight face?
I can’t stop crying. I promised my daddy that I would honor his wishes and I failed him every step of the way. I can rationalize it and tell myself that he should have put it in writing, but he didn’t. He couldn’t. He expected me to have the courage and conviction to stand up to my sister and do the right thing when the time came. I can’t. I am not strong enough.
I have prayed for a new heart so that I can forgive my sister, but the bile in my throat is a more honest testament of my feelings towards her. I hate her for what she is doing to my father. I hate her for what she is doing to Bonnie. I hate her for what she is doing to my siblings and me. I know that I cannot change anything so, for my soul and my sanity, I am asking for prayers to help me accept it and move on. Mourning my father is hard enough without all of his hate.