My great-uncle died a year ago and I was there with his wife when he passed away.
He had a pyx with him that still had a Consecrated Eucharist, and his wife and son were talking about putting the Eucharist in his mouth (this was thirty minutes after they pronounced him dead). I politely said that you can’t do that, and I thought that was the end of it.
I went out of the hospital room for a while, then I came back and overheard someone mentioning that they did put the Eucharist in his mouth.
The way I saw it was that I did my job by telling them that they aren’t supposed to do that; they know the rule and it’s their problem if they do that.
And, yes, I see the irregularity in that they had a pyx with the Blessed Sacrament in the first place. I don’t doubt that it was really the Eucharist; I didn’t ask how they got it but I presume that they asked the Chaplain for a Host when he made his rounds, which means the Chaplain broke the rules too (yes, I know you can’t carry the Host on you unless you’re transporting it to give to someone, no need to devote any time here to the rules, I know them thoroughly); I guess compassion overcame prudence.
His body went into the freezer that night and got cremated in the morning, by the way, which means even more so was the Eucharist maltreated. As bad as it is, it’s at least a good case study of how the Eucharist could be treated improperly if it falls into the wrong hands.
Technically, I don’t even think that uncle should have received the Eucharist in the first place. While he is a practising Catholic in that he went to devotions and Novenas and whatnot, he was on his third wife, having abandoned the first then divorced the second. While he was charitable and adopted kids, his biological kids understandably despised him. He had a history of womanizing, and I seriously doubt that he Confessed this since he was still living as husband and wife with her when he died. Chaplains probably don’t ask about a person’s personal life when they go around giving viaticum.
My question is, what would the right thing have been for me to do? One instinct is to take the Host out of his mouth, although of course this would have upset his family. Plus I was by far younger than them, and it was in a country where seniority is revered. Is informing them of the rule good enough on my part?